Google to use wind power from Sweden to run its Finnish data center

Google continues to invest in clean power internationally, and on Tuesday announced its first contract to buy wind power to provide energy for a data center in Europe. Google says it plans to buy all of the wind power from a large wind farm that will be built in Northern Sweden, which will be built and operated by Swedish wind farm developer O2.

Google wind powerThe wind farm, called Maevaara, will be 72 MW when fully built and is supposed to be fully operational in 2015. Google’s contract is to buy 100 percent of the power for 10 years. The investment arm of German insurance company Allianz is putting up the funds for the project and will own it when it turns on in 2015.

Google is operating as the power customer, and buy contracting to buy the power, made the permitting and financing a lot easier for the investor developer. These contracts are called power purchase agreements, or PPAs, and are common in utility world. This is Google’s fourth PPA, and first in Europe.

The interconnection between the wind farm in Sweden and the data center in Finland is possible because of the transmission lines connecting the two locations. This type of infrastructure can be hard to get built in the U.S.

Google is interested in clean power because the company consumes a ton of energy for its data centers every year. Google wants to move more and more of that energy onto clean power in order to reduce its carbon footprint, and also to better manage the source of its energy generation. However, Google also invests in clean power projects as a way to make money, like the solar project in South Africa that it announced last week. For these types of projects Google can make a return on the capital that it invests over the life of the clean power system.

Google has invested over a billion dollars into a Hoover’s Dam worth (2 GW) of clean power projects, from wind farms, to solar thermal and solar panel installations. It’s also doing more experimental things — for example, its lab Google X recently bought up the high altitude wind startup Makani Power.

Here’s our world map with Google’s clean power investments: