Google has announced its largest ever purchase of renewable energy to power data centers across the U.S., Sweden and Chile, reports The Washington Post. The new projects, mostly wind-powered, add a massive 842 megawatts of green energy, which Google claims is the largest investment ever by anyone other than a power company.

The investment brings Google’s total renewable energy capacity to 2 gigawatts, which is equivalent to the total energy output of the Hoover Dam. Google has pledged to power its entire operations from green energy by 2025, and Re/code reports it was 37% of the way there prior to this deal. That suggests this deal ought to take the company to around 60%.

There is a little small-print, however … 

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Google can’t always feed renewable energy directly to its data centers, admitted the company’s energy policy lead Michael Terrell.

In general, Google tries to buy power in such a way that the electrons can go straight to its data centers, says Terrell, but that isn’t always possible, given the current setup of the grid.

When it isn’t possible, the company instead buys clean energy on the same part of the grid as its data center, thus adding it to that grid — and then sells it back onto the grid and in effect attaches the renewable energy credits to its own operations. The key point, the company has argued, is to ensure “additionality” — the idea that through its actions, there is more clean energy in the world than there would be otherwise.

Google is purchasing the energy via long-term purchasing agreements with utility companies, lasting up to 20 years.

Photo: whatsthatincolorado

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