The Chattanooga Times Free Press is reporting that Google will power two data centers with solar projects totaling 413 MW in Alabama and Tennessee.
Data centers use an incredible amount of power, and companies like Google are using solar energy for some of their energy needs. But not all. The story notes that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will own the solar facilities, and will be supplying the power to the data centers. When the sun is shining and the solar facilities are generating electricity, it is conceivable that they could supply 100% of the power to Google during those times.
However, when it is cloudy, or when it is nighttime, solar panels don’t generate electricity. At those times, TVA will need other sources of energy to supply the data centers with the power they need. What kind of power will it be? Today, TVA’s generation portfolio is 37% nuclear, 24% coal, 20% natural gas, 9% hydro, 3% wind + solar and 7% energy efficiency with a total capacity of 169,000 gigawatt-hours. So, the idea that solar energy will supply 100% of the data centers’ needs is not 100% true.