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The "cloud" is going green. Our electronic toys require massive "cloud" storage systems to connect us to the content we crave. Some big names are betting on renewables, particularly solar and wind, to power those data systems. The reason for going green is also green, as in money.

Google made its case for kicking fossil energy to the curb at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. Forbes Magazine took notes.

Google isn’t investing billions into clean energy projects only to feel good and make employees happy. The company is doing it because the bottomline results are supported by data.

“While fossil-based prices are on a cost curve that goes up, renewable prices are on this march downward,” said Rick Needham, director of energy and sustainability at Google, during a presentation at the Cleantech Forum taking place in San Francisco. Even if you factor in how fracking has reduced the cost of gas in many regions, the pricing trends generally point toward renewables.

The reason, one could argue, centers on the energy source. The renewable industry revolves around developing and mass manufacturing technologies—efficient turbines, solar panels—to harvest somewhat limitless, omnipresent natural resources. The fossil industry revolves around applying technology to tapping resources that are much harder to extract. Hence, fossil fuels tend to be more volatile in price.

Forbes, March 20, article by Michael Kanellos

There are two drivers for clean energy. One is climate change. The other is the cost of constantly refueling fossil energy. Thanks to tons of money spent on deceptive propaganda and lobbyists by fossil energy companies, many Americans do not understand either issue.

Google is cutting through the crap on the relative costs of clean versus fossil energy. The costs of generating power from renewables are falling thanks to economies of scale in production. The cost of fossil energy is going to touch the sky because the cheap, low-hanging fruits are long gone and the hydrocarbons that remain are more expensive to produce. At some point, human beings will also wake up to the reality of climate change and make fossil fuels even more expensive to burn by pricing or capping emissions. It is a smart business decision for Google. Even Forbes could not dismiss that.

Google has also taken energy efficiency to new levels. Two examples stood out in the article. Their data centers have cut energy consumption in half in recent years, which is great deal of bang for the buck. Second, their drive for efficiency even extends to their employees transportation to and from work. Their shuttle fleet cuts carbon pollution and increases productivity.

An employee frustrated with his commute inspired Google to set up its own van pool. Now, 4,500 employees ride on the Google shuttle fleet. The custom-built coaches run on a biodiesel blend and come equipped with WiFi so employees can work during the commute. It has taken 3,000 cars off the road and reduces carbon emissions by 16,000 tons annually.
Apple is also going big on clean energy, partnering with Bloom Energy to power its new data center in North Carolina with solar power.
(Reuters) - Apple Inc now runs its largest U.S. data center entirely on renewable energy, with a majority of the power generated on-site from solar panels and fuel cells, the company's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said on Thursday.

The data center in Maiden, North Carolina, which supports Internet storage and Apple's service-hosting iCloud product, produces 167 million kilowatt-hours - the power equivalent of 17,600 homes for one year - from a 100-acre solar farm and fuel cell installations provided by Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy. They are the largest, non-utility power-generating facilities of their kind in the United States, Oppenheimer told Reuters.

"We switched over to these new energy sources in December," he said. "And we are committed to generating 60 percent of the electricity that the data center will use by making power on site. We are now achieving that goal."

Reuters, March 22, article by Poornima Gupta

Apple has also moved to clean energy to power its corporate offices as well as its data centers. Because of recent aggressive adoption of clean energy, 75% of the energy used by the company comes from renewable sources with a target of 100% in the near future. Now if Apple can force its suppliers to go green, the planet will breathe even easier.

Leadership matters, particularly in the drive to end carbon pollution. It is clear that too many politicians lack the courage and integrity to price carbon. If large and highly profitable companies like Google and Apple can make a strong economic case for clean energy now, other companies will follow suit even without a carbon tax. And when carbon pollution is eventually regulated or taxed, companies late to the clean energy party will be in a world of hurt, as they should be.



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