Google has received approval from U.S. energy regulators to buy and sell electricity, giving the Internet search giant greater flexibility to manage costs related to the operation of its massive data centers.
Google sought approval to become an electricity marketer last December after establishing a wholly owned subsidiary, Google Energy. It applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be given authority to become what is known as a "market-based rate authority." The commission granted Google's application Thursday, giving it the go-ahead to buy and sell energy on a wholesale basis.
The approval not only allows Google to trade energy to meet its own needs, but could pave the way for it to become an active energy trader for profit -- if it so chooses.
However, a Google spokeswoman said the primary purpose in making the filing was to gain more flexibility to procure power for Google's operations. It would also give the company more room to maneuver in terms of hedging energy purchases and incorporating renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geo-thermal, into its power mix.
Data centers are huge consumers of electricity, and Google's rapidly growing businesses have meant it has had to aggressively expand its data center footprint. However, the company has tried to counterbalance that growth through a carbon neutral strategy.
In 2007 it pledged to neutralize the company's footprint through three strategies:
By reducing its energy consumption by maximizing efficiency
Investing in and using renewable energy sources
Purchasing carbon offsets for the emissions that it can't reduce directly.
The company has also invested in a number of renewable energy initiatives to power its installations, including large solar panel arrays. It set a goal to produce 50 megawatts of renewable energy -- about enough to power 50,000 homes -- by 2012.
FERC has given Google approval to begin trading energy effective Feb. 23, which was the date the company requested in its application. According to the FERC approval, it was determined that Google does not pose any barriers to entry as it does not own or control any wholesale electrical generation or transmission facilities.
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