Data centres have been front and centre in the last few years in Ireland, due to prospective jobs, economic growth, and an increase in the use of Ireland as a tech hub. Now with international giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Apple driving a stake in Irish soil, Ireland has become a hotbed for data centres. A supplementary benefit of data centres is their constant 24-7 energy requirements, which provide a constant base load for electricity network operators. This helps the future development of a secure grid and ultimately facilitate integration of a mixed generation system that includes renewables.
As a company requiring very large amounts of energy to power their data centres, Google started in 2009 studying the best way to use and buy renewable energy to play their part in tackling climate change. This has posed a challenge in the US, since Google couldn’t buy clean energy from local utilities because of regional and regulatory restrictions. They considered developing their own renewable projects at their data centre facilities but the projects were not viable due to physical and geographical restrictions. As a solution, they decided to buy renewable power directly from developers on the same grids where they operate using Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). These PPAs provided all the necessary renewable energy certificates (RECs) to match their consumption when buying local power from conventional sources of power. More on how Google does this can be found here. The Irish market has seen similar initiatives by private corporations where Apple has already had a PPA tender process for its planned Irish data center, which marks a change in the dynamics of how the Irish electricity market is going to be used in the future.
Seven years on from their first look at renewables, Google is proud to announce that they will be able to purchase enough renewable energy to match 100% of their operations by 2017. Other large corporations, such as Ikea and SAP, are also choosing renewables for business sustainability, as the price of clean energy drops.