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Published on April 28th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


“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 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

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. 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.

  • Ashley Wilkes

    Cleantechnica should apologize.

    In the same Cleantechnica newsletter one can fine 2 articles referring to Apple’s efforts to build data centers that use renewable energy. One article headline: IT’S OFFICIAL: 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR MASSIVE APPLE DATA CENTER [Maiden, North Carolina]


    Then later in the article:

    “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).
    Source: Clean Technica (”.

    This “SNAFU”, or whatever it is, is nothing less than shameful. Who’s running the show at Cleantechnica? Anybody? If anyone is “running the show” at Cleantechnica I hope they are humble enough to be embarrassed because the apparency is that he or she has serious competency issues.

    Cleantechnica should formally apologize to Apple for publishing contradictory stories regarding their commitment to 100%-renewable-energy-use.

    • Ashley, are you kidding me? These articles are over 1 year apart. Anyone following this topic would know that Apple has made big changes in that time, but that even its 1 green data center is far from proof the company has greened up. It’s still lagging behind the rest of the industry, but this latest news does bring hope and is definitely welcome news after years of pushing!

      • If there is any “kidding” being done here it would you kidding yourself. Why was the artIcle FROM OVER A YEAR AGO posted at all without some highly visible indication (other that a date in a small font) that the article was posted OVER A YEAR AGO and, further, THE REASON why it was being reposted. You as, director/editor should take responsibility for that.

        I’ve owned Apple computers every year since 1983 and have been indefatigably committed to following Apple’s every move and the concomitant press responses. What I’ve observed over the past 15 years of Apples innovations and rise to the top revenue producing company in the world is the emergence, especially in the media, of Apple Bashers.

        You come across as just another Apple Basher to me. When one bashes Apple they’re also bashing Steve Jobs. No corporate CEO has cared more about the environment, labor laws, workers rights and human rights than Steve Jobs.

        Those in the media, like you, who contend that Apple is “lagging behind the rest of the industry” when it comes to “greening up” come across as arrogant – so much so that it appears that you believe that somehow you own existence and therefore can present any aspect of it to your audience in any light that is in concert with your biases.

        Director/editor or not, you’ve got a lot to learn about who you are and why you do what you do and why you believe you have some direct conduit to truth.

        • First of all, I have no idea what you are talking about with regards to the old article being reposted. Where was it reposted? Not on this site.

          Second of all, I think you are over your head in Apple adoration. I’m a certainly fan of Apple for some things, but certainly not for its environmental legacy so far. And the same goes for Steve Jobs. He was awesome in some arenas and some ways, but he really screwed up in others. Painting him as an angel is completely unrealistic. Sorry.

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