Greenpeace has released a report titled ‘How Dirty Is Your Data?’ that analyzes the energy choices made by information technology (IT) companies, including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon.com, HP, IBM and Microsoft. The report highlights the need for greater transparency from global IT brands on the energy and carbon footprint of their Internet infrastructure.
Information generated by Internet users ends up in giant data-storage facilities called data centers. These facilities consume huge amounts of electricity, amounting to approximately 1.5% to 2% of global energy demand and 3% in the U.S., according to the report, which adds that the demand is growing by 12% a year.
Greenpeace's analysis of current data center investments has found that despite significant advances in making data centers more energy efficient, the sector as a whole is largely ignoring the importance of using renewable energy. Instead, the IT sector is fueling its expansion and the storage of data with energy sources such as coal and nuclear.
Highlights from the report include the following:
– The $1 billion Apple iData Center in North Carolina, expected to open this spring, will consume as much as 100 MW of electricity. The surrounding energy grid has less than 5% clean energy, with the remaining 95% coming from sources such as coal and nuclear; – Facebook is on track to becoming one of the most dependent cloud computing companies on coal-powered electricity, with over 53% of its facilities estimated to rely on coal to power the Facebook cloud; and
– Yahoo! sites most of its data centers near sources of renewable energy, and Google is directly signing power purchase agreements for renewable energy and investing in wind and solar energy projects in many U.S. states as well as Germany.