Google’s secret thirst for power

0810_ATS09How much electricity does Google use to power its servers in The Dalles?

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How much electricity does Google use to power its servers in The Dalles?

You’ll never find out from employees of the search engine giant or from the utility officials who sell them the power, all sworn to secrecy through nondisclosure agreements. Nor will you find the answer within the frequently asked questions section of Google’s web page for its Oregon data center.

For five years Google has remained mum on how much energy the data center uses, even as the facility has made headlines on the front page of The New York Times and raised the ire of Harper’s magazine in a March 2008 article titled “Key Word: Evil.” Oregon Business examined Google’s power usage in June but couldn’t get specifics.

But the operating reports of the Northern Wasco County PUD tell the story that Google will not. In pre-Google 2005, the PUD sold 242.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity for $13.3 million. In post-Google 2009, the PUD sold more than twice as much energy, 592.4 million kilowatt-hours for $26.1 million.


Highly unlikely. One of the subcategories in the PUD’s monthly and annual reports is for primary service customers. In pre-Google 2005 there were five unidentified customers. In post-Google 2006-2009, there were six. Whoever it was, that new, unnamed customer certainly improved the PUD’s bottom line. Primary service sales jumped from $1.4 million for five customers in 2005 to $13.8 million for six customers in 2009. The Wasco PUD’s primary service category has grown larger than total revenues were in 2005.

Using good old-fashioned arithmetic, Google spends about $12.4 million per year on about 330 million kilowatt-hours of energy in The Dalles. That’s enough to power 33,000 homes, or roughly three cities the size of The Dalles.