Google’s new Bay View campus employs sustainable design principles, acting as a microcosm for the company’s carbon-free vision. The facility is located just a few miles east of its headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Each of Bay View’s three buildings boasts a solar panel roof with imbricated, shingle-like PVs constructed with a unique textured glass to prevent glare. Beneath the buildings are thousands of concrete pillars installed in the ground, designed to store geothermal energy for use as heating. With plans dating back to 2005, Bay View has undergone numerous reimaginings in the past decade and a half. On Sunday, Bloomberg reported that its construction is nearing completion, with tentative plans to open to “a limited number” of employees in January, pandemic permitting.
Bay View is one among many of Google’s initiatives aimed at achieving “24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030,” a target announced by the company last September. Many companies have committed to carbon neutrality. Google already achieved it starting in 2017 by offsetting its fossil fueled electricity consumption with renewable energy purchases. However, the company is going a step further by attempting to move beyond carbon offsets and operate on a truly carbon-free basis.
To this end, Google is making large investments in decarbonizing its offices, data centers, and cloud regions. Last month, for example, it announced a $1.2 billion investment in digital infrastructure and clean energy in Germany, including two new cloud facilities in Hanau and Berlin along with a new 39-megawatt solar photovoltaic system and 22 wind parks.
Google classifies its carbon-free-by-2030 initiative a “moonshot”: a term applied to ambitious and as-of-yet unproven goals such as self-driving cars and delivery drones. In an attempt to make its decarbonization moonshot a reality, it is employing everything from “unorthodox procurement contracts and lithium-ion battery storage to algorithms that predict wind patterns and geothermal wells that drill into the Earth’s crust.”
Most of Google’s electricity consumption occurs in its data centers that power billions web searches, emails, and mapping routes throughout the world — 15.1 million megawatt-hours in 2020. Last year, Google met 67% of its data center electricity needs with renewable sources on an hourly basis, a 6% jump from the prior year.
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