Coal fuels much of internet "cloud," Greenpeace says

The 'cloud' of data that is becoming the heart of the internet is creating an all-too-real cloud of pollution as Facebook, Apple and others build data centers powered by coal, Greenpeace said in a new report to be released today.

A Facebook facility being built in Oregon will rely on a utility whose main fuel is coal, while Apple is building a data warehouse in a North Carolina region that relies mostly on coal, the environmental organization said in the study.



"The last thing we need is for more cloud infrastructure to be built in places where it increases demand for dirty coal-fired power," said Greenpeace, which argues that web companies should be more careful about where they build and should lobby more in Washington for clean energy.



The growing mass of business data, home movies and pictures has ballooned beyond the capabilities of many corporate data centers and personal computers, spurring the creation of massive server farms that make up a "cloud," an emerging phenomenon known as cloud computing.



The Greenpeace report comes during a global debate whether to create caps or other measures to cut use of carbon-heavy fuels like coal and curb climate change.



Cheap and plentiful, coal is the top fuel for US power plants, and its low cost versus alternative fuels makes it attractive, even in highly energy-efficient data centres.



Apple, Facebook, Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc and Google have at least some centres that rely heavily on coal power, said Greenpeace.

Most of the companies declined to give details of their data centers to Reuters. All said, however, they considered the environment in business decisions, and most said they were aggressively pursuing energy efficiency.



High technology companies say they support the environment. Apple has released its carbon footprint, or how much greenhouse gases it produces, and Facebook said it chose the location for its centre to use natural means to cool its machines.



Microsoft said it aimed to maximize efficiency, and Google said it purchased carbon offsets - funding for projects which suck up carbon - for emissions, including at data centres.



Yahoo, which is building a center near Buffalo, New York, that Greenpeace saw as a model, will get energy from hydroelectric facilities. The company said energy-efficiency was the top goal, with a building design that promotes air circulation.



Data centre energy use already is huge, Greenpeace said.



If considered as a country, global telecommunications and data centres behind cloud computing would have ranked fifth in the world for energy use in 2007, behind the United States, China, Russia and Japan, it concluded.



The cloud may be the fastest-growing facet of technology infrastructure between now and 2020, said Greenpeace.



The group based its findings on a mix of data, including a federal review of fuels in US zip codes in 2005 and a 2008 study by the Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, which Greenpeace updated in part with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Administration Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Help Desk Support

    £14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Help Desk Support individ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Riding of Yorkshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Ridi...

    Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of Yorkshire

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable