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Google partners with energy startup for Nevada geothermal data centre project

Written by Wed 19 May 2021

Geothermal energy has long been of interest to companies looking for alternative green energy sources

Google has been experimenting with a variety of methods of powering their data centres in a more energy-efficient and environmentally-sound manner. Last year, the company pledged that their data centres would be 100% powered by carbon-free energy. To meet that goal, Google has explored the use of wind farms, solar arrays, and groundwater cooling among other tactics to improve energy use in the data centre.

This week, Google announced that they would begin exploring the use of geothermal energy to provide power for data centres in Nevada, through a partnership with clean energy startup Fervo. The companies plan to use AI applications to overcome the challenges that have held back geothermal use till now – and they expect that they will begin adding power to the local grid by 2022.

Michael Terrell, Director of Energy noted that this is a “first-of-its-kind, next-generation geothermal project,” that will add energy to the Nevada electrical grid, which supplies power to Google data centres throughout Nevada.

Geothermal energy has long been of interest to companies looking for alternative green energy sources. Geothermal energy is sustainable, renewable, and does not fluctuate in the same manner as solar and wind power. It also has an enormous potential as an energy source, if it is harnessed properly.

However, there are some issues that must be addressed. Geothermal energy can be difficult to access, as it is more location-specific than wind or solar, and the best places to harness geothermal energy are at the fault lines between tectonic plates – which are also at a higher risk for earthquakes.

Geothermal plants are also expensive to build and maintain, and because of their limited applications to date, have not been widely tested or used. However, Google and Fervo are developing AI and machine learning to produce next-generation geothermal systems, in addition to advanced drilling, fibre-optic sensing, and analysis techniques.

Mr. Terrell expressed excitement about the potential of geothermal as an energy source, saying “And the US Department of Energy has found that with advancements in policy, technology and procurement, geothermal energy could provide up to 120 GW of firm, flexible generation capacity in the U.S. by 2050.”

Through the partnership with Fervo, Google also hopes to inspire others to explore geothermal power, to incentivize innovation, promote green policies, and increase investments in green energy R&D.

 

Written by Wed 19 May 2021

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AI energy sustainability
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