Google’s data centers forecast the future of CRE


5 / 31 / 2022


google's data centers

Google recently announced that it is “​​focused on achieving our moonshot goal of 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy (CFE) by 2030”.

How? By decarbonizing the grid. Which would mean using clean, green energy generated by a variety of technologies (such as wind, solar and water).

In a bid to achieve the aforementioned “moonshot goal”, Google is building upon a previous purchase of 114 MW of wind power in Iowa. The deal, signed way back in 2010, saw Google purchase 114 megawatts of clean energy from NextEra Energy Resources, establishing Google as a pioneer in the data center space by allowing Google to buy renewable energy directly from suppliers operating on the same grids as its data centers.

A Google spokesperson at the time explained: “Google is interested in procuring more renewable energy as part of our carbon neutrality commitment, and the ability to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market could give us more flexibility in doing so. We made this filing so we can have more flexibility in procuring power for Google’s own operations, including our data centers.”

12 years later and Google has made the Iowa model global. Now, Google operates on the same grids as clean energy sources across Belgium, Denmark, Chile and Finland, and shows no sign of stopping until that 24/7 CFE target is achieved.

And, being as data centers are the most-connected spaces on the planet, when it comes to future proofing office space, CRE should 100% look at what data centers and big tech are doing as pioneers in the space.

If Google achieves its goal of 24/7 CFE by 2030, this would have a ripple effect across all industries. Not only is the working world semi-reliant upon Google (be that through Gmail, using shared documents in the Google Drive, or simply Googling how to spell a particularly tricky piece of lingo), but Google’s out-of-the-ordinary tech solutionism often scales-up to impact the majority. In other words, where Google goes, the rest often follow.

So, what can be done today to ensure that developments won’t fall by the carbon wayside? WiredScore’s Global Director of Research & Development, Sanjaya Ranasinghe, digs into the technicalities:


The move to all-electric is being discussed in the CRE space, how can CRE best-prepare for a future occupancy that demands Carbon-Free Energy (CFE)?


As the way we work is ever more technologically enabled, power continues to be the critical thing we need for our connectivity, smart buildings and workplace technology.

An evolution (rather than revolution) to CFE is needed. Rather than waiting for the perfect renewable all-electric solution to be in place, some actionable initiatives include:

  • Buildings getting their electricity from renewable providers (note: this doesn’t mean it actually comes from renewable sources)
  • Buildings becoming fully electric, i.e: not requiring gas for heating and cooling
  • Buildings having some of their power provided by off-grid energy generation from wind or solar
  • Buildings planning on how new battery technology can play a part in their power strategy

How do the WiredScore and SmartScore certifications help with this?


Measuring and understanding performance, energy sources and utilization is a key first step. We’ve set out guidance within the SmartScore framework on best practice for energy reporting. This includes how tenants can access this information which is increasingly important important, and much more of a demand from tenants.

Also, we’re finding more and more that clients are building WiredScore’s products into their ESG credentials, and we are excited to see how we can empower all of our clients to do this.


With Google purchasing renewable energy directly from suppliers operating on the same grids as its data centers, will this move influence the way in which CRE purchases its energy in the coming decades?


The centralized grid network for supplying energy is an area primed for revolution. Onsite energy generation and storage is part of the change that we’re seeing in real estate. Coupled with increasing requirements for EV charging for cars, bikes, scooters etc, we’re moving towards a place where the limitations of the centralized grid need to be overcome.


What (if anything) can developers do to ensure that their energy supply is sitting on the same grid as a renewable source?


Right now, this is an ambition that only the likes of Google can achieve. Data center locations don’t have to adhere to all of the requirements of a typical office building such as location, transport links and proximity to amenities, and can instead focus on positioning themselves to optimize for power.

However, when it comes to connectivity, what the data center world is doing sets a precedent for what the office world will ask for in the future. We’ve seen data center standards of years ago become the defacto for connectivity in great office buildings. As such it’s easy to see Google’s scrutiny over energy provision becoming what office landlords will strive for in the near future.


In 20 years time, do you think a carbon-neutral energy supply will be available to all commercial buildings?


It’s a matter of “must be” rather than “will be”. We’re rapidly getting to the position where employees and employers won’t want to (or won’t be allowed to) be in a building that doesn’t have full transparency over how their energy is sourced. Beyond that, I can see a world where productivity per kWh of energy expended could be a key driver to deciding where people chose to work. Not only will people want to work where they’re most productive but also where they’re most sustainable. That inextricable link between productivity and sustainability is on the horizon.

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