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Google is saving the environment, one renovated coal plant at a time

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What better way to bid adieu to a coal plant than to build a renewable-energy-powered center right on top of it? In the ultimate victory for environmental activists, Google is planning to spend $600 million on a server farm that will span a whopping 350 acres of land in NE Alabama, near Huntsville, and will ultimately be 100 percent powered by green energy.

In a blog post released earlier this week, Google announced that they would be “building on the grounds of the Widows Creek coal power plant in Jackson County, which has been scheduled for shutdown.” Patrick Gammons, the senior manager for Google’s Data Center Energy and Location Strategy continued, “Data centers need a lot of infrastructure to run 24/7, and there’s a lot of potential in redeveloping large industrial sites like former coal power plants. Decades of investment shouldn’t go to waste just because a site has closed; we can repurpose existing electric and other infrastructure to make sure our data centers are reliably serving our users around the world.”

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Much of Google’s Alabaman goal to go green will depend upon the cooperation of Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest public power provider in the United States and an organization incorporated by the United States. Thanks to their own push towards renewable energy sources, Google will soon be able to turn this previously natural resource burning plant into a wholly different beast. Today, Google is “the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world,” and as Gammons points out, the tech giant has “bought the equivalent of over 1.5 percent of the installed wind power capacity in the U.S.” And now, with this latest move, they’re setting their sights on turning one of the most environmentally unfriendly areas of the country into a renewable ally.

The data center that is scheduled for construction is one that will require copious amounts of energy, as these farms provide the power for services like Google search or your favorite YouTube cat videos. This makes the push toward green, renewable energy all the more important, the company notes, and there are additional benefits beyond the lack of a carbon footprint as well. The opening of the new data center will create between 75 and 100 permanent jobs in northern Alabama’s Jackson County, and will pay employees an average of $45,000, according to state officials. And given that Alabama isn’t exactly known for its high-paying jobs or its booming tech sector, it seems that Google’s presence will have quite a large impact on the area.

Updated 6/29/2015 by Caleb Denison to correct the mis-identification of the city in which the Willow’s Creek Coal Plant is located

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