Google it! What’s in the wind for Singapore? Investing in R&D & Data Centres
Why is Singapore attracting global players in wind energy? Its attractiveness stems from its strong foundational R&D competencies, favourable intellectual property (IP) protection and ability to attract international talent,’ he added. The wind industry falls under Singapore’s cleantech sector, which has been identified as a major pillar of growth for the country. It is expected to contribute S$3.4 billion to gross domestic product by 2015 while providing 18,000 jobs. Meanwhile Google is going for wind to power another of its Data Centres.
Jessica Cheam , Environment Correspondent , Straits Times (Singapore) (23 April 2011):
THE wind seems to be blowing in Singapore’s direction – when it comes to the city state’s nascent wind power industry.
In the past few years, the Republic has attracted a spectrum of wind industry- related firms to set up shop here – even though the wind surrounding sheltered Singapore clocks an average speed that is insufficient for commercial wind power generation.
Spanish wind giant Gamesa is the latest of such firms to establish its presence here. It set up a research and development (R&D) laboratory earlier this month.
Its chairman Jorge Calvet said at the opening ceremony that the firm took ‘the quickest time’ in its history to decide on opening the new centre here, primarily due to Singapore’s R&D expertise.
The research centre, the first for Gamesa in South-east Asia, will work with local institutions on wind technology research.
Mr Goh Chee Kiong, director of cleantech at the Economic Development Board (EDB), said Singapore is fast becoming a hub of choice for wind energy activities despite not having a domestic market.
‘Wind companies look to Singapore to conduct R&D as well as to set up their control towers to manage their Asia-Pacific markets,’ he told The Straits Times.
‘Our attractiveness stems from our strong foundational R&D competencies, favourable intellectual property (IP) protection and ability to attract international talent,’ he added.
The wind industry falls under Singapore’s cleantech sector, which has been identified as a major pillar of growth for the country. It is expected to contribute $3.4 billion to gross domestic product by 2015 while providing 18,000 jobs.
Cleantech refers to clean technology such as solar or wind energy that minimises the use of resources and the impact on the environment.
Danish wind power giant Vestas was among the first high-profile investments Singapore attracted. The firm invested $500 million in a research centre at Fusionopolis in 2008.
Since then, other firms have followed, such as German technology company Siemens AG, which set up its regional headquarters for wind operations here.
Last year, Norwegian wind service firm DNV also opened a cleantech centre here, which offers advisory services for the sector, such as project development support and wind turbine technology.
Mr Soren Karkov, director of clean energy for DNV, said Singapore’s strength as a financial hub is a pull factor.
‘Many of the financial institutions have headquarters here and we have seen an increasing number of requests for wind and solar energy-related assessments such as technical and financial due diligence,’ he said.
Singapore’s booming wind business – riding on the larger growing Asia wind market – is reflected in the number of staff at Siemens’s wind power unit.
When the company set up its regional headquarters here in 2008, there were only two or three staff members. Today, the number is 33, said Mr Jeyan Nadarajah, the company’s commercial head of Asia-Pacific for wind power.
‘We decided on Singapore because of its strategic location, especially in terms of proximity to potential customers in the region, and good pool of skilled manpower,’ he said.
The Siemens team in Singapore focuses on acquiring and executing wind farm projects. Although there are no large-scale wind projects here, Siemens uses Singapore as a base to serve markets such as China and India.
Nearer to home, Thailand and the Philippines also have huge potential for wind power growth, Mr Nadarajah said.
EDB’s Mr Goh said other factors contributing to the growing wind industry here are the ‘complementary capabilities from our thriving aerospace and marine and offshore industry sectors’, for instance in the fields of aerodynamics, controls and system integration.
Such firms include Singapore-listed Keppel Offshore & Marine and Swiber Holdings, both of which provide offshore services for the wind sector.
Keppel Offshore & Marine chief executive Tong Chong Heong said the offshore wind energy sector is gaining momentum on a global scale. On average, 250 offshore wind turbines are installed worldwide each year, and this is expected to increase to about 1,000 units over the next decade or so, he noted.
The firm provides installation and maintenance of offshore wind farms, and also conducts research into areas such as transport, wind turbine foundations and installation and cabling.
It recently won a contract to build a wind turbine installation vessel that will be used in the North Sea.
‘Our global yards are able to offer integrated solutions that can help to improve reliability and reduce the cost of offshore wind projects,’ Mr Tong said.
‘In the absence of a wind industry of its own, Singapore is still able to support the sector’s growth by participating in different aspects of the value chain.’
James Niccolai , IDG News Service (22 April 2011):
Google has invested in a wind farm in Oklahoma to help offset the environmental impact of its data centers, even as Greenpeace stepped up its criticism of big Internet companies for using “dirty power” that contributes to global warming.
Google has signed a 20-year purchase agreement to buy all the power generated by a 100-megawatt wind farm to be built near one of its data centers in Mayes County, Oklahoma, Google announced in a blog post Thursday.
It’s Google’s second investment of this type in the past year. Both were made by a subsidiary company, Google Energy, which is certified to buy and sell power on the U.S. wholesale market.
“These purchases represent long-term, meaningful actions to reduce our carbon footprint and power our operations with clean electricity,” Google said.
The company also published a white paper Wednesday that explains the complexities of trying to use renewable energy to run a data center. For regulatory and other reasons, Google can’t take the power generated by the wind farms and apply it directly to its data centers.
“At our data centers, Google is a retail customer — we have no way of taking power off the grid wholesale and applying it to our load,” it says in the white paper. “We have to buy power just like you do: from our local regulated utility.”
Instead, Google sells the power it agrees to purchase back to the grid at local, wholesale prices. The purchase agreements provide the financial incentive for the wind farms to get built, it said, and Google gets to collect Renewable Energy Credits for the wind power it sells. RECs are akin to carbon offsets, except Google says they are more effective because they represent renewable power that has actually been produced.
“Even if we can’t legally or physically transfer the [wind] power to our facility, being in the same power market ensures we are contributing to greening the grid where we operate,” the company said.
Both the wind farms are being built by NextEra Energy, in which Google has made an investment. It said the Oklahoma facility will be operational by late this year.
Google made its announcement at GigaOm’s GreenNet conference in San Francisco. Greenpeace was also there, to step up its campaign against Internet companies that it says rely on power from coal-fired plants to run their data centers.
A new Greenpeace report, “How Green is Your Data?” criticizes Facebook, Google and Apple for building data centers in North Carolina, where it says “cheap and dirty coal-powered electricity is abundant.”
“The IT industry points to cloud computing as the new, green model for our IT infrastructure needs, but few companies provide data that would allow us to objectively evaluate these claims,” Greenpeace says.
Greenpeace argues that big Internet firms should locate their data centers where the local utility companies are producing renewable energy, in order to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage further investments in renewables.
It also credits Google for its efforts, however.
“Of the 10 brands graded, Akamai, a global content distribution network, earned top-of-the-class recognition for transparency; Yahoo had the strongest infrastructure siting policy; Google and IBM demonstrated the most comprehensive overall approach to reduce its carbon footprint to date,” Greenpeace said.
Google, in its white paper, suggests running a data center on renewable energy is more complicated than Greenpeace implies.
“We know from Kirchoff’s circuit laws that electricity generated in one spot cannot be directed to a specific user over the electricity grid,” Google said. “Once you put electricity on the grid there is no actual way to say ‘the energy from wind farm X is going to my data center Y.’”