Sure, it seems kind of strange that Google has decided they want to be able to buy and sell energy on the United States market. They quietly filed an application just before Christmas with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in order to do so and were approved. Fact is, the ability to trade energy is done in a heavily regulated market, and if you think your power company isn’t doing it as well, you’re wrong.
The most efficient way to manage electricity is through an energy market. This market is regulated by the government as well as a regional market maker, depending on the geography where you need or have power for the market. They act as the middleman and set the standards by which energy can be transacted. Google only wants to have the flexbility to purchase more when they need it at better prices than they can get as a regular commercial customer.
Remember, commercial power costs more than it does for regular residential users, and that small percentage difference means a lot when you’re running massive data centers that process millions of search queries. That’s not to mention the plethora of newfangled applications that Google seemly releases every week which adds even more load to their servers.
This is just another way for the company to better manage its resources. In a story on 60 Minutes over the weekend, it was revealed that Google was the first commerical customer of the something called the Bloom Box, which can efficiently generate off-grid energy using a unique fuel-cell method by combining oxygen and fuel in a unit that can be placed right outside of a building much like an air conditioning system. And Google has purposely tried to build data centers close to cheap energy resources such as near hydroelectric dams in Oregon – because they have to pay for all of that energy anyways – and it has also been said that they are very careful about the efficiency of these resources.
So don’t take Google’s decision to do this as just another reason that they want to take over the world. If you think this is concerning, check out how much they pay for bandwidth. You’ll be more surprised by that.