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Monday, March 09, 2009

Google uses more electricity than most countries on earth

Google is notoriously secretive about its data centers (their locations, their layouts, how much electricity they use, or even how many of them there are), saying only that the company has a stated goal and of being carbon-neutral. It's believed that Google has at least three dozen dedicated data centers (although studies of IP addresses suggests there may be many more than that). Most, if not all, of the Google data centers draw power from hydroelectric or nuclear plants.

Google says that a typical search query uses an amount of energy equivalent to the release of 0.2 grams of CO2. If that's true, and if Google handles a billion queries a day, that's equivalent to a net release of 200 tons of CO2 per day. But remember, Google's data centers are not powered by coal-driven generators (they use hydro or nuclear power instead), so in essence a Google search costs nothing, in terms of carbon dioxide.

In terms of electricity, it's a different story. We're talking huge amounts of electrical power. Some estimates put Google data center power usage at 50 megawatts per data center. At the end of a year, that's 432 million kilowatt-hours of energy used, per data center. For 36 data centers, we're talking a grand total of around 15 billion kWh per year. That's roughly twice the amount of electricity consumed by all U.S. government data centers put together [ref].

Just to put it in perspective, this means Google consumes more electricity than most countries on earth. If Google were a nation, it would rank somewhere around No. 75 of 215 countries. (For electricity usage by country, see the excellent chart here, based on statistics from the CIA Factbook.)


  1. I read that if Facebook was a country it would be 8th in terms of population...... how is there electricity usage going?

  2. That's a really great question. I don't know the answer, but we do know that FB, unlike Google, contracts a high percentage of its data-center needs through Rackable and other third parties. (Hence FB is apt to be much less "green" than Google, because some of its power must surely come from coal-fired plants.) I expect that FB's electricity usage is within an order of magnitude of Google's. If its rapid growth continues, Facebook will inevitably pass Google in electricity usage. It's just a matter of when.

  3. To make a difference you could search Google trough Greenseng. All search results are pulled in from Google, but they also calculate the CO² footprint and pay to offset it. All free for you.

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  5. Awesome post, Kas. I definitely want to learn more about data center infrastructure software and other related topics. Keep the great posts coming please!

    - Jackie


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