Google is set to fund a 10MW solar farm which will have about 40,000 solar panels connected to commercial fish ponds in Taiwan. The project will be used to compensate energy consumed by Google’s data center located about 100 km north. The solar farm project located in Tainan City is Google’s first renewable project in Asia.
It’s quite rare to find renewable energy generation enough to power a massive data center anywhere in the world. Even if success is achieved in the area of building a big solar or wind farm, land, permits, and in securing fund for the project, buying clean electricity easily is a challenge. This is because many markets are not set up to allow that.
The above challenge has been consistent in Taiwan, that it took Google years to lobby the government into allowing it to buy renewable. According to Google, the lobbying yielded results as the government in 2017 amended its energy regulations. These amended rules now give access to non-utility companies to purchase renewable energy from producers directly. That alone made the solar project achievable.
Google, which is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world currently, was allowed to purchase renewable in multiple markets. This, however, came after series of persuading of officials and utilities, working with the company in order to have them alter their playbook.
Joe Kava, Google’s VP of data centers, in an interview explained to Data Center Knowledge that there was a need for Google to devise creative solutions in a cooperative fashion. Kava stated that the markets in Taiwan and the service area of Tennessee Valley Authority in Tennessee and Alabama were tough to crack for various reasons. These were the places however that Google announced two big solar projects recently.
From day one of its operations there, Kava mentioned that Google had been weighing its renewable energy possibilities in Taiwan. It was in 2011 that the company stated its intention to build a data center in Taiwan, which was brought online later in 2013.
As expected, the energy from the long-term power purchase agreement signed with a renewable energy producer wasn’t used to power Google’s data centers directly immediately the agreement was signed. Currently, the data centers, including everything else in the region, are on the same utility grid. Google plans to provide adequate renewable generation capacity on the same grid in order to measure up the consumption of its data centers.
Google won’t consider 10MW as a lot, according to its standard. It has refused to disclose exactly the amount of power demanded by its data centers. Kava also declined to state the percentage of the Changhua County facility’s consumption that will be matched by the future solar farm. He mentioned that “This is – in the grand scheme of things – a smaller project in Taiwan.” Even though it doesn’t match the demand of the data centers a hundred percent, it’s still a step taken in the right direction.
Of the island’s 14,000 square miles, places available and suitable to build on are few, and it isn’t quite easy to tie up huge parcels of land with solar installations. That’s the reasons why the solar panels will be built above fish ponds. Kava said the owners agreed to release the ponds even as compensations will be made as part of the company’s power purchases agreement. He affirmed that environmental studies were done, so no adverse effects will be noticed on the fishes. The study consultants also opined that the fish can co-exist with the panels in perfect harmony.
The solar project will be operated by New Green Power, and the project is expected online in 2020.