The influx of giant technology companies into North Carolina to build artificially “green and clean” data centers, which they say are powered by their nearby solar farms, has led to a revelation that discredits their claims.
The stunning admission: that electricity derived from solar sources is thoroughly unreliable.
The information was unearthed in a report last week by Carolina Journal, a publication of the conservative John Locke Foundation. In a filing with the state’s Utilities Commission, a solar company affiliated with Google reported that the trustworthiness of the energy produced by its proposed facility would be non-existent.
“Solar is an intermittent energy source, and therefore, the maximum dependable capacity is 0 MW,” wrote Rutherford Farm LLC, a subsidiary of Strata Solar, in its May 2013 application to the North Carolina utility regulatory agency.
In November Duke Energy announced that Google would be its first participant in its “Green Source Rider” program, paving the way for Rutherford Farm’s power to be purchased by the utility, which said “Duke Energy will secure power to meet new energy demand from Google’s expanded data center.”
That’s laughable, considering Rutherford’s statement to the Utilities Commission that “dependable capacity is” zero. Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have rushed into North Carolina because of its cheap electricity dominated by nuclear, coal and natural gas, since their services – such as Internet search and cloud computing – are dead unless they are uninterrupted and totally reliable. Nonetheless at least some of them repeatedly claim that their data centers are powered “100-percent” by renewable sources.
But that’s not the only lie. The partners in disinformation also claimed that costs would be absorbed solely by Google.
“Enrollment in the Green Source Rider means Google will use renewable energy sources for a portion of the energy supplied to its expanded data center in the city of Lenoir,” Duke Energy announced. “Under the program, Duke Energy and Google agreed on the specific project and additional costs associated with energy from the facility. Other Duke Energy customers will not pay for the project.”
What a deal – Google gets to use the fossil-fueled energy it needs to run its servers, claims it is all run by renewables, and negotiates with its utility what it will be willing to pay for the phony public relations campaign – regardless of the real costs. And the claim that Duke’s other customers won’t absorb the additional expensive costs of solar cannot be verified either, as neither the utility nor Google would tell Carolina Journal how much they will pay per month for the “renewable megawatt-hours” it is allegedly buying.
Also left out of Duke’s and Google’s calculations are how much their renewable scheme is subsidized by taxpayers, which is another reason the large tech companies have flocked to the Tar Heel State. North Carolina has been absurdly generous in the subsidization of solar energy, and became a magnet for the industry.
The foundation is a mandate that utilities get 12.5 percent of their power from renewables sources by the year 2021 – the only state in the Southeast with such a requirement. Wouldn’t you love a law that forces people to buy your product, regardless of cost?
And among the more than 100 tax break and rebate programs in North Carolina are a 35 percent renewable tax credit for construction of wind and solar projects, in addition to a 30 percent credit already offered by the federal government. Total credits granted in 2014 were $268 million and were estimated to rise to $500 million to $1 billion for 2015. With the credits being transferable, many were sold to companies like Bank of America, BB&T and Blue Cross/Blue Shield for cash. State lawmakers wised up a little bit on that issue and ended the credit at the end of 2015, but provided a “soft landing” for businesses that had already started projects. Based upon estimates from the Department of Revenue, the claims under that provision could still cost state coffers $938 billion in tax revenues.
Thus you have another major reason why companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have built giant data facilities in North Carolina. They get to (cheaply) use the benefits of the state’s nuclear-, coal- and natural gas-powered electricity, but cloaking it in the guise of a rigged scheme to make them look like they are “green.” And they cash in!
Four years ago Google bailed on a project it called “Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal,” after it realized it was a hopeless endeavor. And a little over a year ago, two of Google’s engineers wrote that they had concluded that the pursuit of renewable energy implementation was a waste of time in trying to address the threat of (alleged) global warming.
So clearly the company understands the failure of renewables, yet they partner with Duke Energy in public deceit anyway.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.