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Facebook Faces Down Google for Title of Most Energy Efficient

Facebook announces new plans for data center efficiencyFacebook and Google seem to be in an all-out war to see which company can come up with the best energy efficiency solutions for power-gobbling data centers. This round probably goes to Facebook, which just announced two new green data center strategies on two distinct tracks. One is the use of ambient air and renewable energy to power its own data centers, and the other is an open-source project to improve the energy efficiency of computer hardware across the board.

Climate is Facebook’s Best Friend

First let’s take a look at Facebook’s climate-wise data center location strategy. Last week the company announced that it would build a new energy efficient data center in Lulea, Sweden. The project is significant because it is Facebook’s first non-U.S. data center, and it has the potential to be operated entirely by renewable energy, so it sets a pretty high bar for future overseas projects. The Lulea climate will provide all of the center’s cooling needs (Yahoo is in on this ambient-air cooling trick, too, btw), and it will also have access to Sweden’s ample hydropower resources.

Open-Source Energy Efficiency for Data Centers

Facebook’s other step is actually a continuation of the Open Compute Project it launched last April. Last week, the company announced that it has formed a foundation in support of Open Compute, which was formulated with the mission of increasing energy efficiency in computer hardware. The initial project resulted in Facebook’s new custom-designed servers that reduce energy loss and recycle hot air for use in office space, among other things. Facebook calculates that the new design uses 38 percent less energy than its existing servers, while costing 24 percent less.

Energy Efficiency and Green Branding

For Open Compute, Facebook published all of its new energy efficient specs and designs at and basically invited the world to contribute to further improvements. The new foundation carries it a step forward by recruiting input from the business community. It has already racked up an impressive list of charter members including Intel, Dell, ASUS, Mozilla, Netflix, and, interestingly, Goldman Sachs (what, no Google?) – all of which stand to benefit from the project’s success, by positioning themselves as important green brands.

Google Holds its Own on Green Cred

It will be interesting to see who’s first out of their corner when the bell rings for the next round in the Battle for the Green. Google already has a raft of green actions under its belt aside from energy efficient data centers, including a couple of Google Earth projects that map out rooftop solar power potential in California and geothermal energy potential across the U.S., a partnership with NASA to promote green aviation, and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to use Google Maps as the primary platform for locating electric vehicle charging stations.

Image Credit: Data Center courtesy of Facebook.

Twitter: @TinaMCasey


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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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