Big Companies Following Google’s Lead in Clean Energy

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When the tech giant first bought wind from a farm in Iowa in 2010, it pioneered a new way for big corporations to access green energy. Now dozens of other companies, from Nike to Walmart, are following their lead.

A new solar farm is one of two new projects in Georgia that will sell energy to Google via the local utility, and is also the latest example of the company’s work to open energy markets to corporations that want to support new sources of renewable electricity. The company pioneered the practice in 2010; now, companies from Nike to Starbucks and AT&T are doing the same thing.

Traditionally, wind farms and solar farms sold wholesale power only to utilities, and regulations made it impossible for companies to buy that clean energy. It also wasn’t possible for Google to generate the energy it needed on-site; solar panels on a roof won’t run a data center. But the company realized that it could apply to the federal government for the right to buy and sell wholesale power itself, and then create long-term contracts–called power purchase agreements–with the developers of renewable projects.

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