Show me a good corporate environmental citizen and Ill show you a company that is more concerned about cutting costs or saving money by eliminating waste from its processes than…
…it is about melting Arctic ice floes. This is not a criticism. As a motivator of human behavior, short-term payback trumps long-range fear any day of the week. We all love our grandchildren, but what the heck.
The emergence of Google as the official tree hugger of the planet fits the pattern. Im sure Larry and Sergey and the gang are really sincere about their commitment to sustainable growth but the decision announced a couple of days ago to launch the biggest solar power project by any U.S. company to date is really smart business. Google plans to deploy 9,212 solar panels on rooftops and parking lots at its Mountain View headquarters campus to generate a total capacity of 1.6 megawatts (MW) of energy.
Data centers burn incredible amounts of energy and now represent a major expense for corporations”especially those whose business is computing. Nobody has more machines consuming more power than Google. The New York Times says the best guess is that Google now has more than 450,000 servers spread over at least 25 locations around the world.
Reducing the costs of energy by producing some of its own needs not only earns Google valuable praise from an increasingly environment-aware public but it cuts real costs from the bottom line. Even if it succeeds in reducing its energy costs by only a few percent, the dollar savings will be enormous.
There are skeptics, of course. The not-quite-as-clever-as-it-thinks Valleywag writes:
I suspect the Google guys will have the last laugh on this one. Like its decision to operate its philanthropic arm as a real business rather than the usual underachieving charity, this approach to good environmental citizenship shows just how powerful Google has become at changing the way the corporate social compact game is played.