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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google is making inroads in its push toward what company officials call its "moonshot goal" of powering itself completely with carbon-free electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week by 2030.

The big picture: At its virtual I/O event Tuesday, Google announced that its climate intelligence computing platform will be able to shift tasks between data centers to maximize the use of renewable energy.

  • Michael Terrell, Google's energy director, tells Axios this could improve efficiency while getting closer to the carbon-free energy goal. Google's already been implementing a program to vary the timing of data center tasks to maximize the use of renewables.
  • The new effort aims to match non-time-sensitive compute tasks, like backing up files or upgrading programs, with times and places where the electricity grid will be the cleanest.
  • "By next year we're hoping that ... we'll be shifting more than a third of our non-urgent compute tasks within our data center network to places and times where there's greater availability of cleaner resources on the grid," Terrell told Axios.

Why it matters: Data centers suck up lots of electricity and running them on zero-carbon power will help fight global warming.

  • Google said its initiative will lower the carbon footprint of its YouTube, Google Maps, Search and other programs.
  • It will also allow developers on Google's Cloud and Cloud customers to prioritize the use of cleaner grids by choosing regions with better carbon-free energy scores.

State of play: Google also announced a deal with Fervo Energy, a next-generation geothermal startup, to bring several megawatts of carbon-free energy to Google's sprawling data centers and cloud computing infrastructure in Nevada.

  • This project is noteworthy because geothermal is currently a tiny part of America's renewable energy portfolio.
  • However, studies show it could expand its share of power generation and heating depending on the advancement of new technologies to find and tap into this resource.
  • Fervo, which recently raised $28 million in VC funding, uses horizontal drilling techniques pioneered in shale oil and gas drilling as well as fiber optic sensing to access geothermal resources.
  • The new project is expected to generate 5 megawatts of baseload geothermal power, but that may grow over time with the help of AI and machine learning, Terrell says.

The bottom line: With its new and existing projects, Google is trying to demonstrate what's possible now, and develop capabilities with ripple effects beyond Silicon Valley.

Go deeper: Google's biggest announcements at I/O

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
May 18, 2021 - Technology

Google's biggest announcements at I/O

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, speaking at Google I/O 2021. Photo: Google

After scrapping last year's I/O developer conference because of the pandemic, Google used this year's event Tuesday to debut a more personalized version of Android and a big update for wearables, as well as a potential breakthrough in videoconferencing, among other advances.

Why it matters: Beyond showcasing new technologies, events like I/O and Apple's upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference serve as a chance to influence where other businesses large and small place their energy and resources.

Ina Fried, author of Login
May 18, 2021 - Technology

Google and the GOP's push to restrict votes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google is among several big U.S. companies criticized in a report Monday for taking part in an April meeting of Republican state leaders that focused on efforts to pass new restrictions on voting.

Why it matters: Google has publicly said it is opposed to bills that would make voting harder, but it's also trying to engage with both Democrats and Republicans and some of that latter group are working hard to pass such bills in a number of states.

May 18, 2021 - World

Huawei's cloud services find government buyers

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is finding plenty of government buyers for its cloud services despite growing suspicion of the company, according to new data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Reconnecting Asia Project.

The big picture: Middle-income countries without strong civil freedoms are the most common customers for Huawei's cloud and e-government services.