Google is now using geothermal energy to meet the massive power needs of its data centers. Google announced a first-of-its-kind geothermal project is now operational in Nevada in a blog post on Tuesday, using heat from the Earth’s core as energy.
The tech giant has been carbon neutral since 2007, meaning it purchased carbon offsets but still uses fossil fuels, but Google has bigger goals on the horizon. By 2030, the company intends to run on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times. That’s a tall task, considering Google uses the same amount of energy as Massachusetts in a year (18 terawatt hours), mostly going to data centers. They call the initiative 24/7 by 2030, and Google’s investment in Nevada geothermal centers is a key piece of this plan.
Google partnered with Fervo to build this carbon-free data center. Geothermal energy is more reliable than wind or solar because it doesn’t rely on weather conditions. Fervo’s unique geothermal energy process pumps cold water 8,000 feet underground, which turns into steam. The steam spins a turbine, creating energy that powers Google Cloud operations in Las Vegas, as well as two data centers in the Henderson and Reno areas.
Google’s commitment to become carbon-free in just 6 years is an effort to get out in front of a looming energy crisis. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects the global supply of oil will be adequate through 2050. After that, it’s uncertain, and oil prices could skyrocket. Google is not willing to take that chance. Its data centers, which run Google Cloud and artificial intelligence models we read so much about these days, are huge energy sinks. Globally, data centers used more energy than a small country in 2022 (240 kilowatt hours). Data centers are huge businesses, that companies like Google can’t afford to lose because of energy prices.
Geothermal energy is just a small step toward the goal of 100% carbon-free energy reliance. The U.S. Department of Energy found that geothermal energy could provide 16% of America’s anticipated electricity needs by 2050. Google will need clean energy to develop much faster if it hopes to meet its goal in just 6 years. They’re also exploring carbon capture, nuclear, and hydrogen energy to power their data centers.