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2/22/2010
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Google Gets OK To Buy Cheap Energy

The company has been approved by federal regulators to operate a market-based rate authority to purchase energy at low rates.

Huge energy gobblers, Google's far flung data centers may soon have a new source of energy -- the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted the search engine firm's request to purchase electricity at wholesale rates.

Google has long had a commitment to keep its soaring energy costs in check and has boasted that its technical prowess enables it to use less energy than conventional data centers. Google has several large server farms scattered around the globe, all using enormous amounts of energy.

The FERC application was filed in December and the approval came through this week. "We made this filing so we can have more flexibility in procuring power for Google's own operations, including our data centers," said a Google spokeswoman, according to media reports. "FERC authority will improve our ability to hedge our purchases of energy and incorporate renewables."

Google has noted that it has designed its datacenters to consume as little energy as possible. For instance, it uses cooling towers rather than water for chilling. The towers enable water to evaporate without using power.

The FERC approved Google's request unanimously, paving the way for the company to operate a market-based rate authority to purchase energy at low rates. Google has said it doesn't plan to use the FERC approval for retail purposes.

More than 1,000 companies -- typically those that use large amounts of energy -- have taken advantage of similar FERC approvals to purchase energy at low rates.

One of Google's newest data centers is in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

In 2009 the company was granted a patent for a technique for designing a data center located on a ship, platform, or on shore that use the tidal motion of the sea to generate electricity and seawater for equipment cooling.

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