Although Google still lags in total value behind Microsoft, it's no overstatement to say that Google is the most ambitious tech company out there, and every peep, large or small, that creeps out of its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters garners some interest.

Case in point: over the weekend, the British newspaper the Guardian published the tantalizing statistic that Google's data center in The Dalles, Oregon, could use as much energy as the entire city of Newcastle, England when it comes fully online in 2011.

(Secondary case in point, in re: the perpetual interest in All Things Google: I blogged earlier today about their goat-grazing project on the Mountain View campus.)

As the world's top-ranked website, it's no surprise that Google has massive data needs. But for much of its history the company has been highly secretive about almost anything it considered proprietary, as I found when I interviewed Urs Hölzle in 2007.

But more recently, the company has been lowering the veil of secrecy on some of its projects, especially those that can help the IT business improve its energy efficiency.

At the Google Data Center Efficiency Summit in April, the company showed off its server designs, as well as opening the door on its container-based data centers. According to a writeup by DataCenterKnowledge's Rich Miller:
The data center facility, referred to as Data Center A, spans 75,000 square feet and has a power capacity of 10 megawatts. The facility has a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.25, and when the container load is measured across the entire hangar floor space, it equates to a density of 133 watts per square foot. Google didn't identify the facility's location, but the timeline suggests that it's likely one of the facilites at Google's three-building data center complex in The Dalles, Oregon.
Google is, of course, still expanding on the data center in Oregon; Bobbie Johnson got a look at the facility last week, describing it in the Guardian thusly:
Inside The Dalles and five other data centres that Google operates around the world, hundreds of containers are stacked in seemingly never-ending rows and columns, each one containing racks of custom-built web servers. Designing these systems to be the fastest in the industry has proved so important to Google's success that employees have referred to it as "our Manhattan project."

The Oregon facility is considered one of the jewels in Google's crown, and the company refuses to talk about the precise costs and energy demands involved. But there is clear evidence that the footprint of a centre such as The Dalles plant is enormous: industry estimates suggest that once it is running at full capacity by 2011, it could require as much as 103MW of power to run – enough to supply every home in Newcastle.
To put that number into more U.S.-centric terms, 103 megawatts is enough electricity to either:
a) Run Google's data center in The Dalles; or
b) Power the city of Oakland, Calif. for almost four months.
That's quite a comparison, especially considering the fact that Google has long been working on developing some of the most energy efficient hardware in the industry....

Photo note: The blueprint to Google's Dalles data center was published in Harper's Magazine in March 2008. To see a large version of the photo, click here.