The near-ubiquitous cloud is changing how we do all sorts of things as people and companies transition from hosting information on their own computers and into the vast data centers across the U.S. and world. And these data centers—even the most efficient of them—are power hungry. That’s had GreenPeace worried and deservedly so, after all many of these data centers are located where energy and land are cheap, which can mean a really, really dirty cloud, fueled by coal power. But some of the world’s leading tech companies are taking a decidedly green approach to powering their data centers according GreenPeace’s April 1 report “Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet.”
“We’re happy to report that many technology companies are using their trademark innovation to power their corners of the internet in increasingly green ways,” writes GreenPeace’s Brian Johnson. “Six internet leaders have committed to powering their operations with 100 percent clean energy. In the process, they are not only shifting the attitudes of their competitors, but the entire power sector as well.” Alongside the report, GreenPeace also introduced a tool that allows users to see how green their favorite tech companies are. You can check that out here: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/media-center/reports/clickingclean/.
The report finds that at least six of the world’s leading Internet and tech companies—Apple, Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace, and Salesforce—committed to power their data centers with 100 percent renewable energy and are already making steps to power the Internet and the cloud. Heck both Google and Facebook are literally taking the Internet to the air solar power, too. But Google’s also looking at innovative ways to power its data centers with clean energy and Apple’s been adding solar power at its new data centers from day 1.
“Apple, Facebook and Google are powering our online lives with clean energy, and building a greener offline world for everyone in the process,” said Gary Cook, Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst. “These companies have proven over the past 24 months that wind and solar energy are ready and waiting to power the internet, and the rest of our economy, with clean electricity,” Cook said.
GreenPeace also credited Apple and Facebook for greatly increasing the transparency of their energy sources, as well as for working with Google in North Carolina. “As a result of pressure by three major brands (Apple, Facebook and Google) located in North Carolina, Duke Energy, the largest utility in the US, adopted a Green Source Rider, opening the market to renewable electricity purchases for large customers in North Carolina,” GreenPeace said.
Still, the use of the cloud and data centers are expected to drive significant amounts of energy use in the near future. “The rapid growth of the cloud and our use of the internet have produced a collective electricity demand that would currently rank in the top six if compared alongside countries; that electricity demand is expected to increase by 60 percent or more by 2020 as the online population and our reliance on the internet steadily increase,” GreenPeace said. “While shifting businesses to an online model can create significant gains in energy efficiency, the energy appetite of the internet continues to outstrip those gains thanks to its dramatic growth.”
GreenPeace also asserted that in addition to being the ‘green’ thing to do, the business case for clean energy is becoming more compelling. “Costs for renewable energy continue to drop, prices for fossil fuel-based electricity are rising, and leading companies are perceiving those price cues. They are also heeding customers who increasingly value sustainability,” it said.
However, some companies are still lagging in the tech space. “Other internet companies have refused to pay even lip service to sustainability, and are simply buying dirty energy straight from the grid,” the report stated. “Those companies, most notably Amazon Web Services, are choosing how to power their infrastructure based solely on lowest electricity prices, without consideration to the impact their growing electricity footprints have on human health or the environment.”Tweet