Data centers — cavernous warehouses filled with computers and cables that keep websites and apps running around the clock — are the beating heart of the internet. They are also huge consumers of energy, and as the world spends more time online, environmentalists are growing increasingly concerned about their climate impact. But Google is now trying to rehabilitate the data center’s image, by turning one of its giant server farms into a big battery.
Last month, Google announced that it would be installing batteries to replace some of the diesel generators that provide backup power at its data center in Saint-Ghislain, Belgium — a first for the company. The move is more than a routine upgrade from old, dirty equipment to new, cleaner technology. When Google isn’t using the batteries, it plans to supply some of their energy to the local electric grid. If the experiment is successful, data centers equipped with batteries that store renewably generated power could one day become “critical components in carbon-free energy systems,” Joe Kava, vice president of global data centers at Google, wrote in a blog post.