Posted:
These days, if you’re an engineer, inventor or just a tinkerer with a garage, you don’t have to look far for a juicy opportunity: there are cash prize challenges dedicated to landing on the moon, building a self-driving car, cleaning the oceans, or inventing an extra-clever robot. Today, together with the IEEE, we’re adding one more: shrinking a big box into a little box.

Seriously.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Especially when the big box is a power inverter, a picnic cooler-sized device used to convert the energy that comes from solar, electric vehicles & wind (DC power) into something you can use in your home (AC power). We want to shrink it down to the size of a small laptop, roughly 1/10th of its current size. Put a little more technically, we’re looking for someone to build a kW-scale inverter with a power density greater than 50W per cubic inch. Do it best and we’ll give you a million bucks.
There will be obstacles to overcome (like the conventional wisdom of engineering). But whoever gets it done will help change the future of electricity. A smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. Or allow you to keep the lights on during a blackout via your electric car’s battery. Or enable advances we haven’t even thought of yet.

Either way, we think it’s time to shine a light on the humble inverter, and the potential that lies in making it much, much smaller. Enter at littleboxchallenge.com—we want to know how small you can go.

Posted:
It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with saving energy. For over a decade we’ve been designing and building data centers that use half the energy of a typical data center, and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy use even further. In our pursuit of extreme efficiency, we’ve hit upon a new tool: machine learning. Today we’re releasing a white paper (PDF) on how we’re using neural networks to optimize data center operations and drive our energy use to new lows.

It all started as a 20 percent project, a Google tradition of carving out time for work that falls outside of one’s official job description. Jim Gao, an engineer on our data center team, is well-acquainted with the operational data we gather daily in the course of running our data centers. We calculate PUE, a measure of energy efficiency, every 30 seconds, and we’re constantly tracking things like total IT load (the amount of energy our servers and networking equipment are using at any time), outside air temperature (which affects how our cooling towers work) and the levels at which we set our mechanical and cooling equipment. Being a smart guy—our affectionate nickname for him is “Boy Genius”—Jim realized that we could be doing more with this data. He studied up on machine learning and started building models to predict—and improve—data center performance.
The mechanical plant at our facility in The Dalles, Ore. The data center team is constantly tracking the performance of the heat exchangers and other mechanical equipment pictured here.

What Jim designed works a lot like other examples of machine learning, like speech recognition: a computer analyzes large amounts of data to recognize patterns and “learn” from them. In a dynamic environment like a data center, it can be difficult for humans to see how all of the variables—IT load, outside air temperature, etc.—interact with each other. One thing computers are good at is seeing the underlying story in the data, so Jim took the information we gather in the course of our daily operations and ran it through a model to help make sense of complex interactions that his team—being mere mortals—may not otherwise have noticed.
A simplified version of what the models do: take a bunch of data, find the hidden interactions, then provide recommendations that optimize for energy efficiency.

After some trial and error, Jim’s models are now 99.6 percent accurate in predicting PUE. This means he can use the models to come up with new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of our operations. For example, a couple months ago we had to take some servers offline for a few days—which would normally make that data center less energy efficient. But we were able to use Jim’s models to change our cooling setup temporarily—reducing the impact of the change on our PUE for that time period. Small tweaks like this, on an ongoing basis, add up to significant savings in both energy and money.

The models can predict PUE with 99.6 percent accuracy.

By pushing the boundaries of data center operations, Jim and his team have opened up a new world of opportunities to improve data center performance and reduce energy consumption. He lays out his approach in the white paper, so other data center operators that dabble in machine learning (or who have a resident genius around who wants to figure it out) can give it a try as well.

Posted:
Just because Earth Day is over doesn’t mean we’re done doing good things for the planet. Yesterday we announced our biggest renewable energy purchase yet: an agreement with our Iowa utility partners to supply our data center facilities there with up to 407 megawatts of wind energy.

Today, we’re taking another step towards a clean energy future with a major new investment. Together with SunPower Corporation we’re creating a new $250 million fund to help finance the purchase of residential rooftop solar systems—making it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar. Essentially, this is how it works: Using the fund ($100 million from Google and $150 million from SunPower), we buy the solar panel systems. Then we lease them to homeowners at a cost that’s typically lower than their normal electricity bill. So by participating in this program, you don’t just help the environment—you can also save money.
A home sporting SunPower solar panels

SunPower delivers solar to residential, utility and commercial customers and also manufacturers its own solar cells and panels.They’re known for having high-quality, high reliability panels which can generate up to 50 percent more power per unit area, with guaranteed performance and lower degradation over time. That means that you can install fewer solar panels to get the same amount of energy. And SunPower both makes the panels and manages the installation, so the process is seamless.

This is our 16th renewable energy investment and our third residential rooftop solar investment (the others being with Solar City and Clean Power Finance). Overall we’ve invested more than $1 billion in 16 renewable energy projects around the world, and we’re always on the hunt for new opportunities to make more renewable energy available to more people—Earth Day and every day.

Posted:
You’d think the thrill might wear off this whole renewable energy investing thing after a while. Nope—we’re still as into it as ever, which is why we’re so pleased to announce our 14th investment: We’re partnering with global investment firm KKR to invest in six utility-scale solar facilities in California and Arizona. Developed by leading solar developer Recurrent Energy, the projects have a combined capacity of 106MW and will generate enough electricity to power over 17,000 U.S. homes. Google will make an approximately $80 million investment into these facilities.
The 17.5 MWac/22 MWp Victor Phelan project (pictured), located in San Bernardino, Calif., is part of six Recurrent Energy developed projects acquired by Google and KKR. The six-project portfolio is expected to operational by early 2014 and will generate enough clean electricity to power more than 17,000 U.S. homes.

This investment is similar to one we made back in 2011, when we teamed up with KKR and invested $94 million in four solar facilities developed by Recurrent. Those facilities have since started generating electricity, and we’ve committed hundreds of millions more—more than $1 billion in total—to renewable energy projects around the world.

These investments are all part of our drive toward a clean energy future—where renewable energy is abundant, accessible and affordable. By continuing to invest in renewable energy projects, purchasing clean energy for our operations and working with our utility partners to create new options for ourselves and for other companies interest in buying renewable energy, we’re working hard to make that future a reality.

Posted:
As part of our quest to power our operations with 100% renewable energy, we’ve agreed to purchase the entire output of the 240 MW Happy Hereford wind farm outside of Amarillo, Texas. This agreement represents our fifth long-term agreement and our largest commitment yet; we’ve now contracted for more than 570 MW of wind energy, which is enough energy to power approximately 170,000 U.S. households.

The Happy Hereford wind farm, which is expected to start producing energy in late 2014, is being developed by Chermac Energy, a small, Native American-owned company based in Oklahoma. The wind farm will provide energy to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the regional grid that serves our Mayes County, Okla. data center.
Some (happy) cows on the future site of the wind farm. 
 The cows will still have plenty of room to graze between the turbines.

The structure of this agreement is similar to our earlier commitments in Iowa and Oklahoma. Due to the current structure of the market, we can’t consume the renewable energy produced by the wind farm directly, but the impact on our overall carbon footprint and the amount of renewable energy on the grid is the same as if we could consume it. After purchasing the renewable energy, we’ll retire the renewable energy credits (RECs) and sell the energy itself to the wholesale market. We’ll apply any additional RECs produced under this agreement to reduce our carbon footprint elsewhere.

This type of power purchase agreement represents one of several ways we’re working to make additional renewable energy available for both our data centers and the communities in which we operate. In Scandinavia, due to the region’s unified power market and grid system, we’re able to purchase wind energy in Sweden and directly consume it at our Hamina, Finland data center. We’re also working with our local utility partners to develop new options. In 2012, we signed an agreement with GRDA, our utility partner in Oklahoma, to green the energy supply to our Oklahoma data center with 48 MW of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind Project. Earlier this year, we began working with Duke Energy to develop a new renewable energy tariff (PDF) in North Carolina.

We take a comprehensive approach to acquiring renewable energy for our operations. We’ll continue working directly with utility providers, collaborating with industry regulators and pursuing creative agreements (PDF) like the Happy Hereford PPA.

Posted:
More than ever, people are using the Internet to shop, read, listen to music and learn. And businesses rely on Internet-based tools to operate and deliver their services efficiently. The Internet has created all kinds of new opportunities for society and the economy—but what does it mean for the environment?

We’ve been working to answer that question and enlisted the help of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to gather more data. Their study (PDF), released today, shows that migrating all U.S. office workers to the cloud could save up to 87 percent of IT energy use—about 23 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, or enough to power the city of Los Angeles for a year. The savings are associated with shifting people in the workforce to Internet-based applications like email, word processing and customer relationship software.


These results indicate that the Internet offers huge potential for energy savings. We’re especially excited that Berkeley Lab has made its model publicly available so other researchers and experts can plug in their own assumptions and help refine and improve the results.

Of course, understanding the impact of shifting office applications to the cloud is only part of the story, which is why last week we hosted a summit called “How Green is the Internet?” to explore these questions in greater detail. At the summit, experts presented data on how the growth of Internet infrastructure, including devices like phones and tablets, can impact the environment. We also saw great excitement about the potential for entirely new Internet-enabled tools in areas like transportation, e-commerce and digital content to deliver huge energy and carbon savings. We’ve posted the videos from those sessions and invite you to take a look.



One of our goals in hosting the summit and supporting the Berkeley Lab study was to identify and encourage new research on this topic. We’ll continue to work to answer some of these questions, and we hope others will too.

Posted:
What do a Swedish wind farm developer, a German insurance company and Google’s Finnish data center have in common? As of today, a lot. We’ve just inked agreements with O2 and Allianz to supply our Finnish data center with renewable energy for the next 10 years—our fourth long-term agreement to power our data centers with renewable energy worldwide, and our first in Europe.


Here’s how it works: O2, the wind farm developer, has obtained planning approval to build a new 72MW wind farm at Maevaara, in Övertorneå and Pajala municipality in northern Sweden, using highly efficient 3MW wind turbines. We’ve committed to buying the entire output of that wind farm for 10 years so that we can power our Finnish data center with renewable energy. That agreement has helped O2 to secure 100% financing for the construction of the wind farm from the investment arm of German insurance company Allianz, which will assume ownership when the wind farm becomes operational in early 2015.

This arrangement is possible thanks to Scandinavia’s integrated electricity market and grid system, Nord Pool. It enables us to buy the wind farm’s output in Sweden with Guarantee of Origin certification and consume an equivalent amount of power at our data center in Finland. We then “retire” the Guarantee of Origin certificates to show that we’ve actually used the energy.


As a carbon neutral company, our goal is to use as much renewable energy as possible—and by doing so, stimulate further production. The Maevaara wind farm not only allows us to make our already highly energy-efficient Finnish data center even more sustainable, it also meets our goal of adding new renewable energy generation capacity to the grid.

Of course, using renewable energy is good for the environment, but it also makes long term financial sense. That’s why, in addition to protecting ourselves against future increases in power prices through long-term purchasing for our operations, we also invest in new renewable energy projects that will deliver a return for our money. In recent years we’ve committed more than $1 billion to such projects in the U.S., Germany and, just last week, South Africa. We’ll continue to look for similar opportunities around the globe.

Posted:
As we search for investments that can help speed up the adoption of renewable energy, we’ve been looking beyond the U.S. and Europe to parts of the world where our investments can have an even greater impact. We’ve just closed our first investment in Africa: $12 million USD (103 million Rand) investment in the Jasper Power Project, a 96 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. Upon completion, Jasper will be one of the largest solar installations on the continent, capable of generating enough electricity to power 30,000 South African homes. The project, developed and funded by SolarReserve, Intikon Energy and the Kensani Group, is also backed by Rand Merchant Bank, the Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa and the PEACE Humansrus Trust.


View Jasper Power Project in a larger map
The Jasper Power Project is located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, near Postmasburg


When we consider investing in a renewable energy project, we focus on two key factors. First, we only pursue investments that we believe make financial sense. South Africa’s strong resources and supportive policies for renewable energy make it an attractive place to invest—which is why it had the highest growth in clean energy investment in the world last year. Second, we look for projects that have transformative potential—that is, projects that will bolster the growth of the renewable energy industry and move the world closer to a clean energy future. The Jasper Power Project is one of those transformative opportunities. To explain why, perhaps some background would be helpful.

Back in 2008, South Africa experienced a severe energy shortage, which resulted in blackouts throughout the country and slowed down economic growth. Since then the South African government has been actively supporting the growth of new sources of electricity to power the nation. While today South Africa is primarily dependent on fossil fuels, there’s lots of potential for renewable energy—it’s a country blessed with abundant wind and solar resources—and the government has set an ambitious goal of generating 18 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2030 (as a comparison, the entire South African grid is currently 44 GW).

To meet this goal, the South African government has established the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP). Through the program, renewable energy projects compete on the basis of cost and contribution to the local economy to be awarded a contract with Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned energy utility. Jasper and the other projects being developed through the REIPPPP have the potential to transform the South African energy grid. And given South Africa’s position as an economic powerhouse in Africa, a greener grid in South Africa can set an example for the whole continent.

Once constructed, the project will use solar panels like these.

Just as compelling are the economic and social benefits that the project will bring to the local community. Jasper will create approximately 300 construction and 50 permanent jobs in a region experiencing high rates of unemployment, as well as providing rural development and education programs and setting aside a portion of total project revenues—amounting to approximately $26 million over the life of the project—for enterprise and socio-economic development. We appreciate how forward-thinking the South African government has been in designing the REIPPPP to encourage these kinds of local economic benefits.

Google has committed more than $1 billion to renewable energy investments and we continue to search for new opportunities. Our search has brought us from the U.S. to Europe and now to Africa. We’re excited to see where else it might lead.

Posted:
It’s no surprise that Google appreciates engineers. And this Earth Day, we’re looking at some of our favorite engineers from nature to see how they can teach us to treat the environment better. We’ve created a website where we can see the beauty and ingenuity of the natural world through photos from National Geographic. We also want to provide easy ways to be greener in our own lives, so this site shows us how we can all be like those organisms by taking simple actions to care for the environment.


For instance, until recently I’d never heard of a remora. Turns out that these fish latch on to other ocean creatures such as whales and turtles to catch rides. In a way, these fish are using their own form of mass transit. To be like the remora and travel with a lighter footprint, we can plan trips using rapid transit. Or we can be inspired by bears—the true experts on “sleep mode”—to save energy in our own lives by adjusting our home thermostat and using energy efficient appliances.

Our doodle today also acknowledges the interconnections of the natural world. You can interact with elements of the environment to affect the seasons, weather and wildlife.


As another way to move from awareness to action, we’re hosting a Google+ Hangout On Air series focused on pressing environmental issues. We’ll kick it off today at 12pm ET with a Hangout on Air connecting NASA (live from Greenland), National Geographic explorers from around the world, and Underwater Earth (live from the Great Barrier reef). Throughout the week, we’ll hold daily Hangouts on Air covering topics such as clean water and animal conservation.

This Earth Day and every day, let’s take a moment to marvel at the wonder of nature and do our part to protect the natural ecosystem we all depend on. A salute to nature’s engineers!

Posted:
We’re always looking for ways to expand the use of renewable energy. To date we’ve committed more than $1 billion to renewable energy project investments, signed agreements to procure wind power near our data centers, and installed solar panels at our corporate headquarters.

It’s also important to work directly with our utility partners to find solutions that will make more renewable energy available for us and for others. The most straightforward way to do this is for utilities to offer a renewable power option for companies that request it—something that’s not currently offered by most utilities. We’ve just published a white paper (PDF) laying out our thoughts on how and why such programs might work.

We’re also announcing our first effort to put this idea into practice. We’re expanding our Lenoir, N.C. data center, and our local electricity provider, Duke Energy, has pledged to develop a new program for large companies like Google who want to buy renewable power for their operations. Duke will file the plan with their state commission within 90 days.

Our Lenoir, N.C. data center

Offering companies like Google a renewable energy option has many advantages. Because the service is made available to a wide range of customers, companies that don’t have the ability or resources to pursue alternative approaches can participate. And by tapping utilities’ strengths in power generation and delivery, it makes it easier for companies to buy renewable energy on a larger scale. Of course, the approach is not without its challenges: utilities will need to work out the mechanics of the service within their local regulatory structure, and in many cases state utility commissions will need to approve the programs. There’s also the challenge of finding cost-effective renewable projects.

We'll continue to find creative ways to supply our facilities with renewable energy, but we think this solution can provide an important new way to increase the use of renewable energy nationwide. We look forward to working with utilities, state utility commissions, companies and other stakeholders to make it a reality.

Posted:
In late December, while most of us were busy wrapping presents, our Treasury team was tying a bow on our most recent renewable energy deal: an approximately $200 million equity investment in a wind farm in west Texas that generates enough energy to power more than 60,000 average U.S. homes.

Spinning Spur Wind Project is located in Oldham County, a wide open, windy section of the Texas Panhandle located about 35 miles from Amarillo. The 161 megawatt facility was built by renewable energy developer EDF Renewable Energy, a veteran in the industry that has overseen more than 50 other clean energy projects. Spinning Spur’s 70 2.3 MW Siemens turbines started spinning full time just before the end of the year, and the energy they create has been contracted to SPS, a utility that primarily serves Texas and New Mexico.

We look for projects like Spinning Spur because, in addition to creating more renewable energy and strengthening the local economy, they also make for smart investments: they offer attractive returns relative to the risks and allow us to invest in a broad range of assets. We’re also proud to be the first investor in an EDF Renewable Energy project that is not a financial institution, as we believe that corporations can be an important new source of capital for the renewable energy sector.

Spinning Spur joins 10 other renewable energy investments we’ve made since 2010, several of which hit significant milestones in the past year:

  • The Atlantic Wind Connection received permission to begin permitting, an important step in advancing the construction of the United States’ first offshore backbone electric transmission system (more in this new video).
  • Shepherds Flat, one of the world’s largest wind farms with a capacity of 845 MW, became fully operational in October.
  • The Ivanpah project, which is more than 75 percent complete and employs 2,000+ people, recently installed its 100,000th heliostat, a kind of mirror (more in this new video).
  • Just yesterday (PDF), the fourth and final phase of Recurrent Energy's 88MW solar installation in Sacramento County, Calif., reached commercial operation.

Altogether, the renewable energy projects we’ve invested in are capable of generating 2 gigawatts of power. To give a better sense of what that really means, we came up with some comparisons (click to enlarge):


Here’s to a clean, renewable 2013!

Posted:
If you drive northwest from Des Moines, Iowa, you’ll see a lot of corn fields. From time to time, you’ll also see wind turbines rising out of those fields, making efficient use of our natural resources to produce renewable energy. It’s places like these that are home to a vibrant, emerging clean energy economy.

Today we‘re announcing that we’ve made an equity investment of $75 million in a 50MW wind farm in Rippey, a small town in Greene County, about an hour outside of Des Moines. The Rippey project, developed by RPM Access, is expected to produce enough energy to power over 15,000 Iowa homes. The project, which is now in operation, uses turbines produced by Nordex USA at their Jonesboro, Ark. facility.

Investment team members Nick Coons and Steffi Russell-Egbert visiting the Rippey project on a (windy) day in October.

We’ve taken two approaches to greening the grid in Iowa, a state where we operate a data center. Back in 2010, we entered into a long-term contract to purchase wind energy from NextEra Energy Resources’ Story County II wind farm. This time, we’re investing directly into a wind project, which has been contracted to sell all of the energy to the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, an Iowa-based utility that will deliver the energy to local consumers. We’re happy to help make more renewable energy available to Iowans and to support the growing wind energy industry in the state.

This project brings our committed investment to the renewable energy sector to more than $990 million. Read more about our previous investments on our Google Green site.

Posted:
Imagine having nutrition-label-like data about every product you use at your fingertips—knowing exactly what ingredients make up things like office chairs or house paint and how they could impact your health today and 30 years from now. It’s a future that goes hand in hand with our commitment to creating the healthiest work environments possible and promoting transparency within the wide world of building materials.

Today, we’re taking a step toward that future with a $3 million grant to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a leading non-profit organization that works to create greener buildings and communities in the U.S. and around the world.

There’s a lack of clear and accessible information on building ingredients, which means that a lot of us might be exposed to potentially harmful and toxic chemicals in building materials—whether it’s in the desk you sit at every day or the building’s paints, tiles and carpeting. This grant is designed to improve human health and well-being by supporting more industry research and better standards around healthy materials.

We’ve already done a lot to eliminate many of these chemicals in our offices around the world, and we want to make it easier for others to do the same. The USGBC has had great success with their widely adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. LEED is certifying 1.7 million square feet every day with 9.3 billion square feet participating in LEED across all 50 states and 138 countries. We think they’re in a great position to build on this track record to create real and lasting change in the industry.

But it isn't enough just to have better labeling or standards about the ingredients in various products. We also need to know more about the ingredients themselves, which is why this grant also supports more scientific research and outreach so we can all do a better job of understanding how building materials impact human health. By doing so, we hope to empower consumers and businesses alike to make more informed decisions about the materials they purchase and use in their day-to-day lives.

Posted:
We announced our commitment to carbon neutrality back in 2007, and since then we’ve been finding ways to power our operations with as much renewable energy as possible. In our latest step toward this end, we just signed an agreement with the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to green the energy supply to our Oklahoma data center with 48 MW of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind Project in Oklahoma, which is expected to come online later this year.

We’ve been working with GRDA, our local utility, to procure additional renewable energy since we “plugged in” our data center in 2011, and in February of 2012, GRDA approached us about purchasing power from Canadian Hills. In conjunction with the electricity GRDA already supplies Google to operate its data center, Google will pay GRDA a premium to purchase renewable energy generated by Canadian Hills. This brings the total amount of renewable energy for which Google has contracted to over 260 MW.

This agreement is a milestone for GRDA because it’s their first-ever wind energy project. It’s also a milestone for Google because it’s a little different from the previous Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) we’ve signed, where we agreed to buy the energy directly from the developer who built the wind farm. This agreement, by contrast, marks the first time we’ve partnered with a utility provider to increase the amount of renewable energy powering one of our data centers.

Although both options can make sense depending on the circumstances, we’re excited about this collaboration because it makes the most of our respective strengths: utilities like GRDA are best positioned to integrate renewable energy into their generation mix and to deliver power; we’re a growing company with a corporate mandate to use clean energy for our operations in a scalable way. We’ve been working closely with all of our utility partners to find ways to source renewables directly, and we look forward to working with other suppliers to deliver clean energy to our data centers.

Posted:
This week we're at Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. We're sharing a series of posts about our activities at the conference on the Green Blog; in this cross-post we've gone into more detail about one announcement taking place there. -Ed.

This week at the Rio+20 conference, the Surui tribe of the Brazilian Amazon are launching their Surui Cultural Map on Google Earth. This represents the culmination of a unique five-year collaboration between the Surui people and Google, which began in June 2007 when Chief Almir Surui first visited Google and proposed a partnership. The story of that visit, and the remarkable project that followed, are told in a new short documentary also launching here at Rio+20: “Trading Bows and Arrows for Laptops: Carbon and Culture.”



Training the Surui youth as mapmakers
Over three visits to the Surui territory between 2008 and last month, our Google Earth Outreach team taught Surui youth how to take photos and videos and to collect stories from their elders (such as from the time before first contact with the modern world). Then they learned how to upload these to the Google cloud using tools like Picasa, Docs, and YouTube. From there we used Spreadsheet Mapper 3 to bind it all together to create a Google Earth KML of their map, which contains almost 300 sites.

Map highlights
Through this project, my team has learned that maps are an expression of culture. Mapmakers refer to the “atomic element” of a map as a point of interest, or POI. The Surui mapmakers created POIs that reflect their traditional culture’s close interdependency with their forest home. So instead of hotels and gas stations, on the Surui map you’ll find the locations of parrots and toucans, or the three kinds of trees necessary to make their bows and arrows. You’ll learn where to find the Acai trees (which provide delicious fruit as well as the thatch for their maloca longhouses), the locations of good hunting grounds for the porcao (wild pig), and where the jaguar roam (jaguars have particular spiritual significance to the Surui people and figure in their creation myth). There are also sites and stories of historical battles with other tribes and with the white settlers who started arriving after “first contact” in 1969. Here’s an example POI for the Jenipapo tree:

The text reads: “Jenipapo fruit is produced by the jenipapo tree, which reaches twenty feet high. From the meaty part of the green fruit, an ink is extracted with which human skin can be painted. This makes the fruit very important for the Surui, because the art of painting is always included in everything that they do, especially in celebrations and rituals. The art of painting is one of the things most valued by Paiter. Each occasion calls for a different type of painting.”

Here’s a rich storytelling tour of the Surui Cultural Map, narrated by Chief Almir and the Surui youth who were the star mapmakers:



As Chief Almir says at the conclusion of the Surui people’s Google Earth tour:
Without the forest, our entire culture would disappear. And without our culture, the forest would have disappeared a long time ago. It’s important to live in a sustainable way and to strengthen those whose livelihoods directly depend on a healthy ecosystem. We have a 50-year sustainability plan, which includes solutions for our territory. An example is the Surui Carbon Project, which uses technology to monitor the carbon stock of forest and trade it in the market for carbon credits. Our hope is that we can come together virtually and in person, and that we can find and implement solutions together.
It’s been a great honor for us to work with the Surui people and to experience their world view, especially to see how they blend their traditional knowledge and culture with modern technology. We’ve learned from Chief Almir that partnerships, consensus and collaboration are central; in that spirit, we’d like to thank our partners on this project: ECAM, Kanindé and Brazilian filmmaker Denise Zmekhol, who has documented the life of the Surui people for more than twenty years.

You can watch a video of the  tour or download it in English or Portuguese. To learn more about the Surui tribe, known as “Paiter Surui,” please visit www.paiter.org.



(Cross-posted from the Green Blog)

Posted:
We’re obsessed with building energy efficient data centers that enable cloud computing. Besides helping you be more productive, cloud-based services like Google Apps can reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions and save you money in the process. Last year, we crunched the numbers and found that Gmail is up to 80 times more energy-efficient (PDF) than running traditional in-house email. We’ve sharpened our pencils again to see how Google Apps as a whole—documents, spreadsheets, email and other applications—stacks up against the standard model of locally hosted services. Our results show (PDF) that a typical organization can achieve energy savings of about 65-85 percent by migrating to Google Apps.

Lower energy use results in less carbon pollution and more energy saved for organizations. That’s what happened at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which recently switched its approximately 17,000 users to Google Apps for Government. We found that the GSA was able to reduce server energy consumption by nearly 90 percent and carbon emissions by 85 percent. That means the GSA will save an estimated $285,000 annually on energy costs alone, a 93 percent cost reduction.

How is the cloud so energy efficient? It’s all about reducing energy use for servers and server cooling. Here’s how it works:


A typical organization has a lot more servers than it needs—for backup, failures and spikes in demand for computing. Cloud-based service providers like Google aggregate demand across thousands of people, substantially increasing how much servers are utilized. And our data centers use equipment and software specially designed to minimize energy use. The cloud can do the same work much more efficiently than locally hosted servers.

In fact, according to a study by the Carbon Disclosure Project, by migrating to the cloud, companies with over $1 billion in revenues in the U.S. and Europe could achieve substantial reductions in energy costs and carbon emissions by 2020:

  • U.S. companies could save $12.3 billion and up to 85.7 million metric tonnes of CO2
  • U.K. companies (PDF) would save £1.2 billion and more than 9.2 million metric tonnes of CO2
  • French companies (PDF) could save nearly €700 million and 1.2 million metric tonnes of CO2

We’ve built efficient data centers all over the world, even designing them in ways that make the best use of the natural environment, and we continue working to improve their performance. We think using the super-efficient cloud to deliver services like Google Apps can be part of the solution towards a more energy efficient future.

Posted by Urs Hoelzle, Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure

(Cross-posted on the Google Green Blog)

Posted:
If you’re anything like me, you send and receive a lot of emails every day. But have you ever wondered where your message goes after you hit “send?” How does an email travel from your computer to your friend’s smartphone across the country or around the world?

We’re answering those questions with Story of Send, a new site that gives you a behind-the-scenes look into how all that virtual information makes its journey through the real world—from your Internet service provider to our data centers and beyond. Along the way, you’ll discover everything from where we filter for spam and scan for viruses to how we’re minimizing our impact on the environment through energy efficiency and renewable power.



We’ve included videos and photos throughout the journey so you can explore certain areas more deeply. For example, if you’re curious what data center servers look like, we’ve included some photos. Or you can watch a video to learn about how we purchase clean energy from wind farms near our data centers. And because technology doesn’t always have to be serious, you might find a vampire or two lurking around or uncover other surprises on the journey.

In the past, Gmail fans have shown us how emails connect people across the world. Now we’re providing a glimpse into how those emails go from one place to another. So hit send and start the journey today.

Posted:
Cross-posted on the Lat Long and Google Green blogs

Since 1970, people all over the world have recognized April 22 as Earth Day, an opportunity to appreciate and generate awareness about the natural environment. Here at Google we strive to do our part to make sure our planet is healthy for years to come. From investing in renewable energy to building products that help people be greener in their own lives, we’re building a better web that’s better for the environment.

Today, we’re celebrating Earth Day in a variety of ways. The coming of spring inspired us to grow our annual Earth Day doodle right in our backyard. We planted seeds on a balcony at our Mountain View headquarters and watched them grow into what you see today. We’re also partnering with Friends of the Urban Forest to help make San Francisco schools a little greener.

To help you start a garden of your own, we’ve put together an Earth Day resource page. Explore community gardens and farmers’ markets on our interactive map, get discounted seeds to plant flowers, herbs and vegetables in your own backyard and connect with other gardeners for planting tips and inspiration.


We hope you find these resources useful and enjoy gardening as much as we do. On our Mountain View, Calif. campus, we have community gardens where Googlers can grow and harvest their choice of herbs and vegetables. Company-wide, we focus on getting organic, locally-grown produce for our cafes. We purchase food directly from farms near our campuses, and learn about how our suppliers raise, farm and harvest their food—all to ensure that we’re eating sustainably and being good to the environment.


We hope this Earth Day you are inspired to add a little green to the planet. Earth Day may only be a single day, but the actions we take can last for years to come.

Posted:
Formaldehyde. Lead. Pesticides. Mercury. If building materials had nutrition labels, would you buy a product containing these toxic ingredients? There are more than 80,000 chemicals in the world, and we don’t fully know how they impact our health. And a surprising number of hazardous chemicals still make their way into everyday products we use, including furniture, paints, carpets and flooring. Whether it’s in the home or office, we shouldn’t have to worry that the chair we’re sitting in or the air we breathe contains harmful chemicals (PDF).

On my first day on the job at Google over six years ago, a co-worker asked me to sniff a carpet sample. I didn’t smell anything and was told, “That’s good!” We want to build a greener future and create the healthiest work environments imaginable for Googlers, which means we only use paints, sealants, adhesives, carpets, furniture and building materials with the lowest levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) possible.

A straw-hut style huddle room made with sustainably forested wood from Pescadero Willow Farm, bound by a saline-based, toxin-free solution

Unfortunately, the lack of clear and widely-available product ingredient information makes progress in this area challenging, so we’re asking the market to provide toxin-free products and make its contents an open book. We put all our products through a rigorous screening process to make sure they meet our healthy materials standards, and request full transparency from our vendors by asking them to share comprehensive product ingredient information.

This movement is also gaining momentum outside of Google. Recently, 30 leading building product manufacturers signed on to pilot the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Open Standard, the industry’s first common reporting standard for transparency around health impacts of building materials. Google is a founding endorser of the HPD, and we applaud these manufacturers for taking this important step. Continued leadership like this is needed for the product transparency revolution to gain real traction—not just for building materials but all types of products we consume or use.

So whether you’re at the restaurant or hardware store, ask tough questions so you can make better-informed choices about products to help keep yourself and your families healthy. Your collective voice and purchasing power can make a huge difference.

As for Google, by setting high standards, asking difficult questions and encouraging transparency from our partners, we hope to show how other organizations can create their own healthy and sustainable work environments.

Posted:
To paraphrase Lord Kelvin, if you don’t measure you can’t improve. Our data center operations team lives by this credo, and we take every opportunity to measure the performance of our facilities. In the same way that you might examine your electricity bill and then tweak the thermostat, we constantly track our energy consumption and use that data to make improvements to our infrastructure. As a result, our data centers use 50 percent less energy than the typical data center.

One of the measurements we track is PUE, or power usage effectiveness. PUE is a ratio of the total power used to run a data center to the amount used to power the servers. For instance, if a data center has a PUE of 2.0, that means that for every watt of energy that powers the servers, another watt powers the cooling, lighting and other systems. An ideal PUE would be 1.0.

In 2011, our trailing 12-month average PUE was approximately 1.14—an improvement from 1.16 in 2010. In other words, our data centers use only 14 percent additional power for all sources of overhead combined. To calculate this number we include everything that contributes to energy consumption in our data centers. That means that in addition to the electricity used to power the servers and cooling systems, we incorporate the oil and natural gas that heat our offices. We also account for system inefficiencies like transformer, cable and UPS losses and generator parasitic energy draw.

If we chose to use a simpler calculation—for instance, if we included only the data center and the cooling equipment—we could report a PUE as low as 1.06 at our most efficient location. But we want to be as comprehensive as possible in our measurements. You can see the difference in this graphic:


We’ve been publishing our PUE quarterly since 2008—in fact, we were the first company to do so, and are still the only one. Our numbers are based on actual production data taken from hundreds of meters installed throughout our data centers, not design specs or best-case scenarios. One way to think of it is comparing a car manufacturer’s mileage estimates for a new model car to the car’s real-life miles per gallon. We’re measuring real-world mileage so we can improve real-world efficiency.

Our 2011 numbers and more are available for closer examination on our data center site. We’ve learned a lot through building and operating our data centers, so we’ve also shared our best practices. These include steps like raising the temperature on the server floor and using the natural environment to cool the data center, whether it’s outside air or recycled water.

We’ve seen dramatic improvements in efficiency throughout the industry in recent years, but there’s still a lot we can do. Sharing comprehensive measurement data and ideas for improvement can help us all move forward.