Google confirmed on Friday that it is investing $80 million in six new solar facilities under construction in California and Arizona. The plants, expected to come online early in the new year, are just the latest addition to Google’s renewable portfolio. The internet giant has already poured well over $1 billion into similar projects, including: wind farms in the Mojave Desert, North Dakota, and Oregon; a German solar facility; and a transmission line for wind farms off the mid-Atlantic Coast. Google also has contracts for 570 megawatts of renewable energy to power its massive data centers.
The news from Google comes on the heels of an announcement by Facebook this week that its Altoona, Iowa data center, currently under construction, will run solely on wind power when it comes online in 2015. A nearby wind farm in Wellsburg, Iowa will supply the clean power for the Altoona site, which will be Facebook’s second data center to run totally on renewable energy, following the first in Lulea, Sweden. Facebook has a goal of using 25 percent renewable energy to power all of its data centers by 2015.
But while the two companies are touting renewables as though they’re forward-looking groups, there’s more to the story. Both have been in the news recently for their decisions to support climate-denying politicians and organizations.
In July, Google hosted a fundraiser lunch at its Washington office for Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe. Inhofe is one of the most notorious climate deniers in Congress, repeatedly calling climate change “a hoax.” He was heavily involved in spreading the “Climategate” narrative, and recommended the criminal investigation of 17 of the world’s top climatologists based on hacked emails. While denying the mainstream science of climate change, he has also stated that it would actually be beneficial for the environment and the economy.
Just weeks before Google’s $250-$2,500 plate lunch for Inhofe, it was revealed that the internet company had donated $50,000 at a fundraising dinner for the ultra-conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). While most of the other donors came from the energy sector and conservative foundations, many associated with the Koch brothers, Facebook also chipped in $25,000. Google was still the biggest single donor. CEI ran ad campaign promoting carbon dioxide emissions: “They call it pollution. We call it life.”
Google and Facebook are also under fire for their ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market lobbying group, which has recently been devoted to dismantling state renewable energy and climate laws. While dozens of major companies such as Amazon, Sallie Mae, Kraft and Pepsi have cut ties with the organization, citing the group’s position on voter ID laws and Stand Your Ground, Google and Facebook, along with Yelp and Microsoft, are all serving on an ALEC technology task force.