Google falsely claims to be powered by windmills

Remember how windmills were used in the 19th century to slowly turn a wheel that could grind corn meal?  Well, Google has proudly announced that its thousands of servers are being powered by this cutting-edge technology.  Except that they are not.

Last year, Google consumed as much energy as the city of San Francisco. Next year, it said, all of that energy will come from wind farms and solar panels.

That's a lie.  When Google lies, why doesn't the New York Times headline its piece saying "Google falsely claims," as it does about Trump?

The online giant said on Tuesday that all of its data centers around the world will be entirely powered with renewable energy sources sometime next year.

Another lie.

This is not to say that Google computers will consume nothing but wind and solar power.

That's what the Times just said in the previous sentences.

Like almost any company, Google gets power from a power company, which operates an energy grid typically supplied by a number of sources, including hydroelectric dams, natural gas, coal and wind power.

What Google has done over the last decade, with relatively little fanfare, is participate in a number of large-scale deals with renewable producers, typically guaranteeing to buy the energy they produce with their wind turbines and solar cells.

In other words, Google, which has cash to burn, has paid for the production of inefficient wind and solar power, but it is not actually, from moment to moment, using such power.  And the reason why is very obvious.  Wind and solar, in addition to being much more expensive than oil and gas, are inconsistent sources of power.

Can you imagine doing a Google search and having the results freeze because it has suddenly become cloudy in Arizona?  Can you imagine clicking on a Google link and nothing happening because the wind became calm around turbines in Concord, California?  That's the biggest problem with "renewable" energy sources, and why Google, for all its propaganda, will never be largely powered by it.

"We are the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world," said Joe Kava, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure. "It's good for the economy, good for business and good for our shareholders."

No, Joe – it's bad for the economy, because it is much more expensive.  It is bad for business because those without a lot of money to burn have to raise prices to compensate.  And it's bad for shareholders because it doesn't produce economic value for the company.

Whether Google is the largest buyer of renewables would be difficult to verify, as many industries do not release data on how much energy they consume

Why bother to check or verify any statement Google makes?

The 5.7 terawatt-hours of electricity Google consumed in 2015 "is equal to the output of two 500 megawatt coal plants," said Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer in the school of earth, energy and environmental sciences at Stanford. 

Do you notice how the article tells you how many power plants Google needs (two), but will not tell you how many hundreds of square miles of solar panels or thousands of windmills it needs to meet that demand?

Google has long championed uses of alternative energy. In 2007, it patented an idea for a floating data center that would be powered by waves. It was never built. Less fanciful, but so far equally fruitless, have been schemes to source lots of geothermal power, or capture the high-velocity winds of the stratosphere with large kites.

When a company has a monopoly, and a lot of money, it can do fanciful things.

At the very, very bottom of the article is a small voice of reason:

Critics note that while Google might be adding wind and solar to the world's power grid, overall it is still dependent on fossil fuels, since sun and wind power are intermittent, while demand for things like YouTube cat videos is continual.

"In my mind it's a P.R. gimmick," said Chris Warren, vice president of communications at the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank in Washington supported largely by donations from individuals and companies in the fossil fuel industry. "If they think they can actually support themselves with wind and solar panels, they should connect them directly to their data centers."

Maybe it would be easier if they stop trying and just keep cranking out press releases.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at

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