Posted by & filed under Cloud Computing, Google, Green Computing, Green Tech, YouTube.

Description: Google released what was once among its most closely guarded secrets on Thursday: how much electricity its enormous computing facilities consume.


Date: Sept 8, 2011

“The company said that its data centers continuously drew almost 260 million watts — about a quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant — to run Google searches, YouTube views, Gmail messaging and display ads on all those services around the world.

Though the electricity figure may seem large, the company asserts that the world is using less energy as a result of the billions of operations carried out in Google data centers. Google says people should consider things like the amount of gasoline saved when someone conducts a Google search rather than, say, driving to the library. Read rest of story

Questions for discussion:

  • Why did Google maintain a wall of silence worthy of a government security agency on how much electricity the company used?
  • Comment on the statement :“When we hit the Google search button,” Mr. Horowitz said, “it’s not for free.”
  • Does this story of Google promoting its “being greene” make a difference on you view of google or other tech companies?
  • 15 Responses to “Google Details Electricity Usage of Its Data Centers”

    1. Kristin Schneider

      First of all, I do truly believe that we can give a round of applause to Google for providing and stating this information. To put it simply, Google is paying for the energy that they use, just like every other human being in North America. This is simply the definition of capitalism; a company provides a product or service; they purchase their own raw materials, and then sell their product. Google has made all our lives more efficient with a not to mention free search, while they are paying on their end for the energy being used. What they didn’t mention in this article is that Google invests in many alternative energy sources including Bloom Box, or the hundreds of millions they invest in solar and wind energy projects. In a context of the entire country, Googles energy consumption seems like nothing at all. This shouldn’t be a news flash, the more advanced we get in our technology, the more energy we are going to use. Google shouldn’t have to take the blame for this one, there is plenty of other large organizations out there, GM and GE to name a couple, that are also using up this “supposedly substantial” amount of energy. I believe this article needs more information before people start making assumptions. Google isn’t the only player.

    2. Taylor Elderton

      Google kept a wall of secrecy because they were worried about two different things. One, that seeing their electricity usage would give competitors an insight into their operations. Second, that people seeing that level of usage would give Google a bad image.

      “When we hit the Google search button, it’s not for free” is a statement basically saying that every time somebody searches for something, Google has to use its resources to conduct that search. Searching the entire internet for content is not a cheap or easy thing to do.

      I don’t really view a company based on their ability to be green. There are obvious things to do right and obvious things to do wrong, and everything else is just a bonus in my opinion. As long as they’re not blatantly destroying the environment, I do not look to a company as “bad” or “good”.

    3. Kevin K

      Google chose not to divulge the specifics of their energy usage because from an uneducated point of view, the totals were embarrassing. A casual reader might hear the figure and automatically assume that Google was not being responsible from a green perspective. Any news reporter would easily be able to spin that information into a negative light by simply leaving out a few of the facts that Google presented. From a strictly PR standpoint, this information couldn’t possibly have placed Google in a positive light.

      From a competitive standpoint, there is rarely a good reason to make private company information public unless it directly affects the stockholders. Companies legally must divulge information that is deemed “material” so that stockholders can be kept in the loop regarding the company they own. Apple has tread thin ice in this regard by keeping Steve Jobs’ health concerns private. While not doing anything illegal (in their eyes), the argument can be made that they are acting unethical. Google chose to act a little more ethically and transparent by releasing this immaterial information about their company.

    4. Christopher Rush

      Offering such disclosure as Google has done speaks volumes. I agree with Google that their energy usage should not be the focus of consideration. There are far more pressing energy wasting related matters at hand in the world like people leaving their household lights active on a global scale, the amount or people who take multiple hot showers daily or those who own SUVs who don’t need them. Sure Google uses a lot of energy, but is it really a waste of energy? Instead of driving to the store people do a Google search and order things online, Google maps will give you the shortest route from point A to point B instead of driving around a city for an hour because you are lost. Yes each Google search has a cost but don’t be so pessimistic, it has its benefits too. In my opinion and in that of Google’s, the benefits greatly out-weigh the costs. To add to this, Google contributes to many research projects that are designed to develop new alternative energy sources. This newly disclosed information has not skewed my view of Google as far as their energy consumption is concerned, in my mind it is a great service.

    5. Richard Infante

      google kept the statistics secret “to cloak how quickly it was outstripping the competition in the scale of efficiency of its data centers.” the numbers may be very large and seem to look like a bad image the amount of people using it and the number of searches it performs may make it worth it. like it stated it’s like having every user run a 60 watt light bulb for 3 hours.

      Every time we use google search, google does use energy of an average .3 watts hours which does add up since there’s about a billion searches a day and google’s the one paying the charges

      To me, google is an easier and efficient way of gaining data and every time we deal with efficiency we should think about using less energy, time and money than before. Searching on google saves money and the environment rather than driving to a library or buying a book to research.

    6. Taylor C

      Speculations have lead to the assumption that Google hid its power consumption to throw competitors off, leaving them to only guess their scale and efficiency of it’s data centers.
      The statement in which Horowitz said “Every time we hit the Google search button, it’s not for free” means that all the accumulated energy from using the search engines database adds up to have a larger impact on the environment.
      I applaud Google for making strides to invest a percentage of its energy usage in renewable resources; they could have chosen not to and people still would be using Google at the same magnitude as today. I also value that they are looking to increase the number from 25% to 30% in 2011.

    7. Jian Li

      Google maintained silence because its competitors may figure out the efficiency of its data centers.
      The running of the data centers draw millions watts of electricity. People who use google also need electricity. Even though there isn’t any charge for searching, the usage of energy costs everybody eventually.
      Every company should pursue a sustainable development. The environment is as important as making profit. As a responsible company, google improves its technology as well as find a way to save more energy. Google’s promotion successfully creates a better corporate image. “Being green” is a win-win result for everybody.

    8. Jian Li

      Google maintained silence because the information would be embarassing; the releasing of its electricity usage may let its competitors figure out the efficiency of its data centers and eventually know how they operate the system. Therefore they want to protect their technology.
      The running of google’s data centers draw 260 million watts of electricity. Every time people use google search, watch a vedio, or send an email, they use a certain amount of electricity. Even though there is a small amount for each person, the total usage of energy is massive. The 260 million watts is just for the data center. People who use google also need electricity. They energy for powering computers, tablets, and smart phones should be considered as a cost as well. Even though there isn’t any charge for using the searching engine, the usage of energy costs everybody eventually.
      Every company should pursue a sustainable development. The environment is as crucial as making profit. Google does make the planet greener as seeing it in big picute. As a responsible company, google improves its technology as well as find a way to save more energy. Google’s promotion successfully creates a better corporate image. “Being green” is a win-win result for everybody.

    9. Erin Mitchell

      I am going to start off by saying that I had no idea that everytime I hit “search” on Google that I was using electricity (more so than what was being used to power my computer). After thinking about it, it makes sense but I still don’t feel good about it. The fact that Google is trying to use more energy from renewable sources is a step in the right direction. I wish that they could have options for consumers who wish to reduce their depletion of the energy supply. This article was both intersting and eye-opening. I do not think that I will use Google less, but I will remember that each time I use it, I am contributing more to the energy depletion. I think that people who wish to off-set their contribution could make a more concious effort in other areas in their lives; turn the lights off when they leave a room, unplug things that aren’t in use, and just be more energy concious throughout their everyday lives. Although this comment doesn’t answer any of the discussion questions, it just describes how this article changed how I view certain things in the world now.

    10. Andrew Douglas

      I believe that Google was so secretive about its power consumption because with the latest craze on being green or eco-friendly, the sheer vastness of this figure could risk putting the company in a bad light. That is, I believe most people would see how much electricity Google uses and think that they are horrible for the environment without understanding the number of people and services that are behind that number. I think that the article did a good job of breaking this number down to what the average user’s activity contributes to the electricity usage, so readers can see that it isn’t that much per person, it just adds up with so many people all using Google services.

      As far as this story making a difference in my view of Google or other tech companies I would have to say no. No in the sense that it doesn’t make a difference to me if Google, or any other tech company, wants to be green or not. When it comes down to it, if Google wants to use that much electricity they are able to. They buy that electricity from somewhere and that creates jobs in that industry. If they want to go green and promote a cleaner environment, then that’s fine too. It is entirely their choice, I base my judgements on a company on their products and they value they offer.

    11. Taylor W

      Google maintained a wall of secrecy so that competitors would not gain any insights into how Google operates. One could also argue that when the Average Joe would see these numbers that it would paint Google in a bad light. Considering the amount of data processed by Google this energy consumption really is not bad. BY saying Google searching is “not free” it is essentially being said that electricity is being used for every search completed through Google. I am pleased to hear that Google is trying to take a green approach to their operations, but it doesn’t really change my view of the company at all.

    12. Chris G

      When Mr. Horowitz said, “When we hit the Google search button, it’s not for free”, he was referring to the fact that every search that is done on Google’s site uses SOME electricity, however small it may be. In the article it states 0.3 watt-hours and although it is hard to put this in perspective, the point is that there is some cost to Google when someone searches. Before reading this article I never really thought about the fact that although there it is just an algorithm doing the searching, the servers are using electricity to run the algorithm and that of course costs money.
      One of the reasons that Google has kept the amount of power that they use is so that competition cannot use it against them and learn how they run their operations. Another reason why I think that Google has withheld the numbers for so long is because they were not as efficient as they are now and so therefore they did not want bad publicity. The article does not state what percentage of Google’s energy came from renewable resources prior to 2010 and the Go Green fad started prior to this so I feel that Google did not want to disclose as to create even more bad publicity than it already had.

    13. Alisha Coate

      It was a courageous move for Google to disclose this information. Google maintained a wall of silence worthy of a government security agency on how much electricity the company used because in today’s society it is frowned about to use up our natural resources. Instinctively when uneducated people on this subject view these raw facts or data they figure that Google is using too much energy for just one company. Those people need to step back and realize how useful and how many people use Google.
      I agree that Google searches are not free. The site to us is free essentially but it does consume energy every time we search anything. We also consume energy on every other site as well. Google is just an interactive empire in which makes the effects and electricity usage more noticeable. If you think of the growing social network, Facebook, for instance has millions of users posting on each other’s walls, updating their statuses and searching their friends. How much energy do you think Facebook consumes every day?
      The essence of “being greene” does not have a strong effect on the way I view Google. It is reassurance that companies are starting to realize their wrong doings and correcting them for the better of our planet. It has to start somewhere.a

    14. Lindsay G

      3) Does this story of Google promoting its “being green” make a difference on you view of google or other tech companies?

      Much of the time, when considering energy usage by various tech based companies their personal usage is the primary concern. This article points out that although they use “enough electricity to power 200,000 homes”, we must also think about the reductions in energy usage elsewhere as a result of Google. As stated, less trips to the library for research are necessary. Being able to have access to information online also reduces the need for paper based resources, aiding forest conservation efforts. Everyone is able to access the same information simultaneously, preventing the need to possibly travel to multiple locations or have the information transported to you via inter-library loans. By increasing the electrical investment in Google capabilities, we have also enabled society to have the option to become more environmentally conscious.

    15. Randy Bonham

      From the beginning Google maintained the secret of their energy consumption primarily because it one of there largest cost and as such could be used as a significant competitive advantage. Google was also concerned about the secrecy of their electricity cost because it may have given the competition an idea of how than ran their servers, which is the most important aspect of their primary business. It seems that this determining factor no longer required secrecy, and so they released the information to the public. It may be that there was some pressure from external organisations, mostly those involved with green initiatives, to release the information primary because of Google’s active role in the green movement. When the phrase “When we hit the Google search button,” Mr. Horowitz said, “it’s not for free.” Is used it is used to demonstrated that Google services have a hidden cost. The hidden cost is the consumption of electricity and by association the emission of greenhouse gases.
      To be perfectly honest I barely notice whether a company is green or not. A company’s commitment to the environment has no bearing on purchase decisions I make nor does it give me any positive feeling towards it’s companies culture.

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