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Google and TVA deal to bring more economic, environmental benefits to North Alabama

NORTH ALABAMA — As part of a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Google announced Jan. 16 that the company will be purchasing the output of several new solar farms.

This deal is a major move for both Google and the Tennessee Valley, as the solar farms will not only be one of the largest renewable energy projects in the region, but they will also be the largest solar farms yet to be built for Google.

In April of last year, Google broke ground on Alabama’s new $600 million Google data center in nearby Hollywood, Jackson County, next to Scottsboro.

“Top-tier businesses like Google choose to invest in the Valley because of TVA’s diverse energy portfolio,” said John Bradley, TVA’s senior vice president of economic development, in a news release. “Delivering large amounts of reliable, renewable energy at competitive rates creates quality jobs for the region and makes the Valley an attractive place to do business.”

These “quality jobs,” which Google said will likely be in the hundreds, mean the deal will be economically beneficial to the region. The deal will also result in Google’s investment in the area through lease payments to property owners.

The news release also stated that the output of these solar farms will work to ensure that the electricity which Google’s data centers in Alabama and Tennessee expend will be matched with “100 percent renewable energy from day one.”

The output from about 1.6 million solar panels on these solar farms is expected to total 413 megawatts.

According to a Google blog post from Amanda Corio, senior lead in energy and infrastructure, that amount of energy “is equivalent to the combined size of 65,000 home rooftop solar systems.”

The solar farm deal with TVA falls in line with a commitment Google made in 2018 to work to source carbon-free electricity “around the clock” for each of their data centers. Corio’s blog post states that this will bring the company “substantially closer” to sticking to their energy objectives in the region.

“TVA recognizes that renewable energy is a tremendous asset in terms of economic and environmental benefits,” said Doug Perry, TVA’s vice president of Commercial Energy Solutions. “We’re excited to partner with Google and make this happen for our region.”

Data estimates that the solar farms will provide renewable energy that will match about 72 percent of the data centers’ electrical use with carbon-free sources on an hourly basis, according to the blog post. This is a large step up from a standard regional grid mix that would only be about 48-percent carbon-free.

If the solar farm’s estimates hold true, Google’s data centers will be largely carbon-free in their electricity use throughout most of a typical day.

“Google’s data centers are the engines of the internet, and we are committed to maintaining 100-percent renewable energy and achieving carbon-free energy around the clock for the operation of these facilities,” said a Google spokesperson in the news release. “This milestone solar energy deal with TVA perfectly reflects this strategic commitment. These renewable energy projects represent good news for Google and for the Tennessee Valley region.”

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