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Published on April 28th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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“Cleanest” and “Dirtiest” Internet Data Centers (Yahoo & Google Rock! Apple & Facebook.. not so much)

April 28th, 2011 by  


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This actually came out last Thursday, but Earth Day and a number of other stories and projects kept me from covering it until now. What’s the story?

Greenpeace released a report last week highlighting the green efforts and not-so-green efforts of the world’s top IT companies.

‘How dirty is your data?’ [PDF] is the first ever report on the energy choices made by IT companies including Akamai, Amazon.com (Amazon Web Services), Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo,” Greenpeace wrote.

Greenpeace notes that, interestingly, if the Internet were a country, it would be the 5th most electricity-consumptive country in the world. IT companies require a ton of energy.

One of the key findings of the report was that while a lot of IT companies have focused on energy efficiency a good deal, they have largely ignored the importance of renewable energy (except for Google and Yahoo!, who lead the IT pack). Greenpeace wrote, “the IT sector is fueling its expansion, and the storage of your data, with dirty energy sources, like coal and nuclear.”

As indicated in the title, Apple and Facebook are particularly dirty-energy-dependent (and not looking to change that as far as anyone can tell).

Here’s more from Greenpeace on report highlights:

  • The $1 Billion (USD) Apple iData Center in North Carolina, expected to open this spring, will consume as much as 100 MW of electricity, equivalent to the electricity usage of approximately 80,000 homes in the U.S. or over a quarter million in the E.U.. The surrounding energy grid has less than 5 percent clean energy, with the remaining 95 percent coming from dirty, dangerous sources like coal and nuclear.
  • Both Yahoo! and Google seem to understand the importance of a renewable energy supply, with Yahoo! siting most of its data centres near sources of renewable energy, and Google is directly signing power purchasing agreements for renewable energy and investing in solar and wind energy projects in many US states as well as Germany. Their models should be employed and improved upon by other Internet (“cloud computing”) companies.
  • Facebook, one of the fastest growing and most popular destinations on the web, is unfortunately on track to be the most dependent cloud computing companies on coal-powered electricity, with over 53 percent of its facilities estimated to rely on coal to power the Facebook cloud.

For more, view the Full report (PDF, 36 pages) or Facilities table (PDF, 4 pages)

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



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