Google & Siemens Show What's Possible in Green Energy

The news may not be as buzzworthy as protests and conflicts around the world, but significant investments have been made in switching humans to renewable forms of energy -- an issue that also must be resolved ASAP.

Five years after announcing a plan to become carbon neutral, Google disclosed that it has invested $990 million in the renewable sector.

Since the carbon-neutral plan was announced, the company has signed 20-year agreements with two renewable energy suppliers: NextEra in Iowa and Minco in Oklahoma. These deals will power Google datacenters in those states and promote the growth of this industry. Google will get 214.8MW from these two providers alone. The company has also invested $94 million in the Canadian Hills solar power project in Oklahoma to power datacenters in that state.

More recently, Google spent $75 million to build a wind farm in Rippey, Iowa. That project will generate 50MW. Some of that energy will power a Google datacenter in Council Bluffs; the rest will be distributed to 15,000 Iowa homes. This project will feature wind turbines manufactured by Nordex USA and will be managed by RPM Access, making this an entirely American project.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the news is equally exciting. Siemens has finished a year of testing the largest swept area wind turbine ever built. The prototype tested in Hovsore, Denmark, has a 120m rotor. The commercial version, the Siemens SWT-6.0-154, will boast a 154m rotor and 75m blades and will stand 197m tall with a total sweep area of 18,600 square meters.

Longer blades mean more energy conversion, and each turbine will produce 6MW of power and 25 million kilowatt hours of electricity -- enough for 5,500 to 6,000 homes. (The Vestas V164-8.0 MW turbine is poised to beat Siemens' record in 2015.)

Siemens has put all its wind turbine expertise into these behemoths. Each uses three blades made using a single casting process called IntegralBlade, which produces blades that have no joints and are 20 percent lighter than traditional blades. The turbines are completely gearless, and with the lighter blades, they weigh 200 tons. The company says this allows for easier and cheaper installation and maintenance with less offshore infrastructure.

The first SWT-6.0-154 is being tested at a facility in Osterild, Denmark. Siemens expects this model to become the benchmark for offshore wind farms. The Danish company Dong Energy has already bought 300 of the new turbines. The companies plan to test them at Dong's UK facilities in Gunfleet Sands, starting with two 120m versions as prototypes.

The UK government likely will play a role in this project. It hopes to generate a quarter of the country's electricity using offshore power by 2020, and it has already pumped GB pound 75 billion ($120 billion) into this industry.

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