Microsoft, Google make top 5 on EPA’s green energy list

April 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said tech companies Microsoft and Google, which have large data center investments in Iowa, rank among the top five organizations nationally for using electricity from renewable energy.

The EPA released its top 100 green power users Wednesday, with Intel Corp. leading the list, followed by Kohl’s Department Stores, Microsoft Corp., Whole Foods Market and Google.

The announcement came a day after Google announced it was buying 407 megawatts of wind-sourced energy from Mid­American Energy. The agreement provides enough power to operate its Council Bluffs operations and for future expansions, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said.

It is the company’s second renewable energy agreement in Iowa. In 2010, the company agreed to purchase wind energy from NextEra Energy Resources, which has wind farms in Story and Hardin counties.

EPA said Google gets 32 percent of its power from renewable energy, while Microsoft gets half. The list is updated quarterly.

Greenpeace has criticized Microsoft for relying too much on “dirty energy” to run its data centers. The Redmond, Wash.-based company announced last week it plans to invest $1.1 billion to expand its data center operations in West Des Moines.

David Pomerantz, a Greenpeace spokesman, said Wednesday that Microsoft is on EPA’s list because “it buys renewable energy credits … rather than putting any actual new renewable energy on the grid” like Google and Facebook.

Microsoft is “papering over the problem by buying renewable energy credits,” Pomerantz said. “There is a huge difference in the impact of directly buying renewable energy itself, or investing in renewable energy projects, versus just buying credits on the open market,” he said.

Facebook, not listed among EPA’s top power partners, entered into an agreement last year with MidAmerican to supply all the power needed for its Altoona data center, now under construction, with wind energy. That energy purchase is tracked by renewable energy credits.

Des Moines-based Mid­American said the renewable energy that will be supplied to Google is part of the utility’s $1.9 billion investment in wind that is now under development.

Google said its wind power purchase agreement with Mid­American pushes its renewable energy use to 1,000 megawatts. In 2012, Google invested $75 million in the Rippey Wind Farm in Iowa, part of more than $1 billion pumped into renewable energy.

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