Thursday, 22 September 2011

Tassie may win via green Google

13 September 2011, Page: 32

Google will develop new data centres in locations with a high percentage of renewable energy use, which makes Tasmania the only viable option in Australia should that be the main criteria. The internet giant wants to hit a 100% renewable energy rate over time, an ambitious leap from the current 30%. It doesn't want to build data centres in areas that have a high reliance on traditional energy sources such as coal. Instead, renewable alternatives including wind, solar, hydropower and landfill methane would be welcomed.

"We definitely look for places that have the potential to provide us with a higher percentage of renewable energy.,, so over time almost certainly, as our business grows, well make more investments around the world, including Asia-Pacific", Google green energy "tsar" Bill Weihl said. "One of the important criteria is what's the mix of power that's available or that will be available in future".

Google was continuously evaluating the need to "build and own our own facilities". Google owns six data centres in the US, one in St Ghislain, Belgium, and a new site in Hamina, Finland, that uses sea water for cooling. It did not own any data centres in Asia-Pacific, but had lease arrangements, Mr Weihl said, declining to elaborate. Tasmania generates 86% of its energy from renewable sources, Queensland 8%, NSW 6%, Western Australia 5% and Victoria 3.9%. Overall, Australia generates about 5% of energy from renewable sources, with a 20% target by 2020. New Zealand stands at 74% and aims to hit 90% by 2025.

Asked if New Zealand was a viable location given its renewable energy rate, Mr Weihl said: "That's certainly a big plus and then we'd have to look at other factors". Consideration would be given to a range of costs including construction, power and labour, and proximity to large population centres, he said. "Basically, we want our data centres to be close to users, so the more users there are nearby the better", Mr Weihl said. He didn't rule out building a data centre in Australia to serve Asia-Pacific customers, but said it would depend on network connectivity performance.

"One of the issues going is that the network latency from Australia to Japan and other parts of Asia is relatively high,., we want to put our data centres relatively close to the users so we can provide users with very fast responses with our products", he said. About 85% of Google's carbon footprint comes from "purchased electricity" to power data centres and offices, equivalent to 1.23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In 2008, Google sent a team of data centre experts from the US to conduct a site feasibility study.

IDC Australia senior infrastructure analyst Trevor Clarke said he was surprised that data centre industry suppliers had yet to "really push" for renewable energy sources. "The ICT industry could start putting a lot more pressure on government and electricity providers on getting renewable energy into the mix to power ICT equipment and data centres", Mr Clarke said. He said the industry should request more renewables as part of its supply instead of relying on coal. But once the National Australian Built Environment rating System energy efficiency rating tool for data centres was developed later this year, things could change.