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Google taps up Softbank solar plants for Dallas datacenter

900MW coming web giant's way ... in 2024

Google has just inked a deal with a Softbank subsidiary to buy 75 percent of the power from four solar power installations the Japanese firm is building in Texas, the largest combined clean energy purchase Google has made in the Lone Star state. 

SB Energy, the Softbank subsidiary constructing the solar plants, said the four facilities in the greater Dallas region can generate 1.2 gigawatts of electricity once completed in 2024. Approximately 900 megawatts of that power will be sold to Google through a power purchase agreement (PPA). 

Earlier this year Google said it planned to invest $9.5 billion in offices and facilities in the US, including new offices in Austin, Texas, and additional investments in its Midlothian datacenter south of Dallas, the facility benefiting from the PPA with SB Energy. 

"Within the decade we're aiming for every Google data center to operate on clean electricity every hour of every day," Google Energy Lead Sana Ouji was quoted as saying by SB Energy in its announcement of the deal.

Google has made sure to publicize its commitments to become completely carbon free by 2030, something the purchase of solar power from SB Energy would help in the Midlothian region, where currently only 40 percent [PDF] of the electricity Google uses is generated by renewables. 

Google claimed, incredibly, in 2020 it had wiped out the entirety of its historical carbon footprint by investing in what it called "high-quality carbon offsets." Additionally, the search giant said it has been carbon-neutral since 2007 and powered 100 percent by renewable energy since 2017, well, by how it defines the terms [PDF] anyway. 

Being one hundred percent renewable is "achieved by purchasing enough renewable energy to match annual electricity use," Google said, which reduces emissions but doesn't completely eliminate them – that's Google's 2030 goal, at least for scope 2 emissions, which are those associated with operational electricity use. 

Scope 1 emissions from assets owned and controlled by the company, and scope 3 emissions from indirect impacts have been gradually declining [PDF] for Google over the past few years, albeit with a jump up from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As for its goal of operating on completely carbon-free energy by 2030, Google isn't quite there, and its 2022 environmental report (linked above) indicates the company's scope 2 emissions have actually been on the rise for the past five years.

Google said that in 2021 66 percent of its data center electricity use "was matched with regional carbon-free sources" like those being stood up in Texas, but $9.5 billion in facilities expansion might cause that number to drop before it improves. Meanwhile, 2030 just keeps getting closer. ®

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