Coal fuels much of internet "cloud," Greenpeace says
Tuesday 30 March 2010
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 & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...
£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...