Investors could be forgiven for wondering if many of the biggest tech companies are trying to outdo one another on their green energy credentials. Firms like Amazon, Apple, and Google have all been making unique announcements in recent months that underlie how the views of the corporate world are starting to evolve on matters related to energy and the environment.
Notoriously secretive Apple has been making major announcements recently boasting about the amount of green energy it is producing. Apple is actually planning to begin selling excess energy it is producing because it is producing so much more of it than it needs. The company also appears to be poised to move into using fuel cells in some of its products in the future according to some reports. The company has filed a patent, which covers the use of a specialized fuel cell system to power a Macbook for weeks at a time.
The idea would be a revolutionary one in computing as all other modern electronic devices operate on some combination of rechargeable batteries and AC power. The fuel cell system would dramatically increase the portability and potential for Apple’s Macbook, but it would also radically alter how consumers interact with their devices.
Amazon is building a 500 foot tall office tower in the downtown area of the city which includes a series of geodesic domes that will accompany the tower. Amazon is building a series of 100 foot tall dome shaped buildings around its headquarters tower. These domes will open in 2018 and host hundreds of different plan species from around the world. The idea is to give Amazon employees a place to walk among the greenery in suspension bridges, or hold meetings in giant birds nest like structures in trees. Amazon is doing all of this in hopes of improving employee productivity through a creative working environment, but the space has significant energy benefits as well. Related: Oil Bust Takes Its Toll On Alberta, Amount Of ‘Orphans’ Increases By 45%
Now Google is making news related to an unorthodox use for its recent DeepMind artificial intelligence acquisition. DeepMind’s tech is proprietary of course, but based on the available information, it appears that the technology essentially uses a form of linear programming optimization. The company is using these techniques via DeepMind to reduce power consumption by manipulating power usage from computer servers and cooling equipment to cut electrical usage by 15 percent. Google likely pays somewhere between $25 and $40 per MWh of electricity, and the company reported that in 2014 (prior to the DeepMind acquisition) that it used 4.4 million MWh of electricity.
As a result, Google probably saved somewhere between $16 and $26 million in cost this year. Over time that sum will continue to accumulate thanks to the DeepMind improvements. This represents between a 2-4 percent return on Google’s roughly $600M purchase price (400M GBP) of the subsidiary. Of course that return excludes any benefits to Google’s core business lines, etc.
Overall it’s not clear if tech companies are truly competing with one another to attract credibility with socially responsible investors, or if these projects are economically attractive endeavors that would be pursued independent of any environmental benefits. Regardless, it is clear that the tech giants see a benefit to themselves, their investors, and the environment. Given that, it is likely there will be more innovative green tech applications in business in the future.
By Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com
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