back to article ‘We save trips to the library’ – Google

Sure, a data centre is a power hog. Sure, Google has more data centres than everybody else. Courtesy of a new interview, we now know just how much electricity is consumed by the Chocolate Factory: 260 megawatt hours in 2010. That’s what Google has said to the New York Times and, given that electricity would be one of the ad- …


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  1. Turtle

    A question (that Google would think) better left unasked

    "Google is in a position to contribute much, much more to the debate: it has both the money and data to vastly improve everyone’s understanding of the pros and cons of the energy poured into data centres. That would be interesting. "

    Yes it would be interesting, but *highly* improbable. Google, like nearly every other corporation, corporate body, or real or juridical entity, is mostly interested in "improving everyone's understanding of the pro's and cons" solely from Google's particular point of view. And considering the hefty publicly funded discounts they get on (at least some of) their electricity, they probably would just as soon not have any such discussions in the first place: it is a question that they do not even want raised, as it can have exactly *no* benefits for them, but could conceivably work to their (Google's) detriment.

  2. Shannon Jacobs

    Data point on the new energy-consuming services

    Android smartphones. 'Nuff said? Or do you want the facts and figures on energy losses in charging and discharging batteries?

    Having said that, I think that Google is sincere in trying to reduce their own energy consumption and costs. That just makes good business sense.

    Unfortunately, the American laws are written by corrupt politicians owned by a tiny minority of the least ethical businessmen. Google is not allowed to consider the big picture. If Google can think of any way to reduce their own energy consumption and costs while making everyone else use more energy, well, that's exactly what they are legally obliged to do. Any big-picture thinking that reduced Google's profits in any way is basically asking for a lawsuit from the 'pitiful' shareholders.

    In conclusion, Google didn't want to become evil--but that doesn't change the reality.

    Constructive suggestion: A little change to the tax code. Donations to purchase politicians or political influence should raise your tax rate. We could beef up the IRS, but why not let the 'political influence audit' be done by regular accountants? Auditors selected by your competitors.

  3. hbarr

    Wrong Units!

    Your article says Google consumed 260 megaWatt-hours in 2010...

    As there are 8,766 hours in an average year, this implies that Google is using electricity at a rate of 29,660 Watts. In other words all Google data centers are consuming energy less hungrily than 30 one-kiloWatt electric fires. Very commendable economy!

    In fact, Urs Hoelzle said that Googles' *rate* of consumption was 260 megaWatts. (Equivalent to 260,000 electric fires.)

  4. James Woods

    Do as google says and not as google does. Google has completely monopoly immunity.

    They hide behind being a search engine yet are starting up their own fiber optic internet service. They were able to buy youtube hosting it on their network that is in your best interest to peer with so that your customers have faster access.

    Google is todays definition of a monopoly and I don't see any end in sight.

    Not even a chart showing how google is hand and foot with the government would change this. Oh wait google buzz did just that and still nothing happened.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      There will be no end in sight

      Google and Apple are invincible as long as:

      Their competitors (current and future) run a pricing/business case oriented development cycle led by "excel spreadsheets". Compared to that Google, Apple, etc run product oriented business cycle. As a result Google, Apple and their ilk come, see and conquer through the creation of _NEW_ consumption patterns and hereby _NEW_ business cases.

      From there on there is bugger all you can do. They are destined to become natural monopolies (or at least companies with significant market power). If you regulate them in one market they just go on to become in another.

      The only way to fight them is to fight them with products. That however requires to build and design new products instead of "best of breeding" Chihuahua to a Saint Bernard through a masterful exercise in bundling existing products.

  5. veti Silver badge

    Lies, damned lies and statistics

    260MWh per year for a service (utility) the size of Google sounds suspiciously modest to me. The UK as a whole consumes around 5MWh per person per year, so Google's consumption is approximately the equivalent of a very small village.

    Surely Google does save at least that much power in reduced trips to the library. But I wonder what people do with the time they save? Plan road trips and holidays, maybe...

  6. Jamest NSW
    Big Brother

    Figure makes no sense

    260 Megawatt hours means a one megawatt data center for 260 hours - that wouldn't run Googles electric kettles for a year.

    Maybe Gigawatt hours that would mean a average running load of about 29 MW which would probably be right.

    Assume AUD 0.10 per KW/h AUD $26,00,000.00 per annum for electrons - pretty reasonable bill

  7. Wile E. Veteran

    Sure, a drive to the library is inefficient

    But only if you want to look up some factoid. If you want an in-depth explanation of something or just want something to read, a trip to the library can be much more efficient than multiple searches that never give you the answer you need because you don't know how to word the question in the form the ad broker, er search engine wants it to be worded. That's where the reference librarian comes in handy s/he knows how to take your clumsy description of what you need to know and translate that into a query that brings back the answer on the first try. If it's a popular question, the reference librarian probably doesn't even need to look it up. S/he remembers the answer from looking it up before and can tell you the answer right away and can also tell you the Dewey Decimal number of where related information is located so you can go browse for answers to related questions you didn't even know you needed to ask. If the necessary book you need for the complete answer isn't in stock, an inter-library loan can usually have it for you in 24 hours.

    It's also like saying mini-pickups are more efficient than large semi-trailers. They are if all you need to deliver is one small package, but exceed the cargo capability of the mini-pickup by a large factor and it's suddenly far more efficient to move the load with a single semi than with a large fleet of mini-pickups.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And maybe you cycle to the library?

      Still, it all helps tight-fisted governments bolster the case for shutting down libraries. Thanks, Googtards.

  8. Antti Roppola

    Out of site, out of mind

    This is an entire discussion that would have not even been possible if this compute capacity had still been scattered across servers and desktops the world over. I wonder if this is just so much like Richard Pryor in Superman III where all these fractions of cents add up to a really big number. Now we need a context in which to understand Google's cinsumption of electricty.

  9. Mikel


    Ah, it must be horrible to try to come up with an article that snarkily "bites the hand that feeds IT" when this is the subject. How does one apply piercing wit to the idea that a global company with vast datacenters serving perhaps billions of people, does so without generating any net carbon emissions whatever?

    That's quite a challenge, and it's clear you struggled with it. But you have it behind you now, and the next few will be easier.

  10. GloriousVictoryForThePeople

    Seems a tad low.

    My house uses ~10,000kWh p.a. = 10MWh, or 1/26th of a google.

    I feel a new Reg unit of energy coming on....

  11. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    But I walk to the library...

    thus neatly combining the search for knowledge with healthy exercise.

    If you haven't got a library within 5 minute's * of your home, talk to your town planners.

    * insert human-powered transportation of your choice here... walking/cycling/rollerblading/scuba diving/surfing/hang-gliding

    1. leeeeeb

      It's just a shame that the libraries we can all walk to, now seem to be full of people using computers and ignoring the books.

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    Which is correct?

    Greenwashed "doing Good" version:

    "We save trips to the library."

    Law of unintended consequences based Evil version:

    "We take users away from libraries, giving your government an excuse to close them."

  13. Chris Glen-smith


    You forgot the FAIL icon so here it is.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd expect that google saves a vast amount of energy for society as a whole, it isn't just trips to the library it saves as it connects you to a vast number of services the most important ones for energy saving I would expect being online shopping sites a single van delivering 100 packages is better than 100 people driving to find what they want to buy.

    Then if you're shrewd it can generally save you money by making it easier to compare products and services, and at the end of the day money is an extrapolation of time, energy and, production.

    Of course if it was just Google and not all the other sites that exist then sure Google would probably be pretty useless, if it were just a big library for example, but it isn't. Also it generates large lumps of cash and drives a lot of big and small business.

    Though from a "green" perspective, it would probably be better if Google(or an equivalent) didn't exist, as then all the companies that hang off it likely wouldn't exist or be much smaller, lots more people likely wouldn't have jobs, companies that produce things that got sold to those unemployed people likely wouldn't have been able too so they'd have fewer sales and probably less staff, to deal with all the unemployed folk you'd need more taxes, so less money again to go into the economy and before you know it carbon emissions are reduced! (Maybe)

  15. clean_state

    That's my heater

    260 MWh / 365 / 24 ≈ 30KW

    The heater in my home is 20KW. I did not know it could run 2/3 of Google datacenters. I think I'll buy another and out-power Google next year :-)

  16. Gerard Krupa

    Google vs Librarians

    Perhaps in a bid to compete with Google, librarians could now stand in front of customers and yell product names at their faces while they read.

  17. Peekee

    "Google's 2010 electricity consumption was 2,259,998 MWh."

    From :

    "Numbers" -> "Our carbon footprint 2010"

    1. T.a.f.T.


      Somewhere down there they say "these projects represent a total capacity of over1.7GW, which is far more electricity than we use"

      1.7GW = 1,700MW

      1,700MW << 2,259,998 MWh

      365d * 24h * 1.7GW = 14,892GWh = 14,892,000MWh

      So they have enough Green project work to cover x5 there usage?

  18. Simon B

    What library? The councils have pretty much closed them all aorund here!!!!

  19. Michael Kean

    BitCoin Mining?

    I wonder if the total energy use of all BitCoin miners would exceed Google's. I wouldn't be surprised given some of the rigs people have built with 8 high end video cards, two PSUs, etc.

  20. schafdog

    260 MW = 26 * Top 1 Supercomputer

    The NY Times article states 260 MW, not 360 MW or 260 MWh. This will be 2,2 PWh a year.

    The number 1 of Top 500 supercomputers uses 10 MW, so google can run 26 of these with the same energy envelope and have a R(max) of 212 PFlops of Linpack..

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