Big Brands Turn To Renewable Sources To Power Data Centers
Data Centers Renewable Energy
Data centers are by no means small, especially when these can house hundreds of servers in one cluster. The companies and big brands that are responsible for large centers like these need to be conscientious then of what natural sources are used to power the massive amounts of technology. By earmarking scarce resources, these could be depleted entirely over time, which would negatively affect the earth and these centers. In an effort to stay environmentally-friendly, renewable energy is often the means that is favored to power these long hallways of servers and monitors. Big brands like Google and Apple are leading the way for other companies to follow.
Is it Too Late?
Is it too late though? Katie Fehrenbacher of Gigaom wrote in a February 2015 piece called “It’s arrived: The evolution of clean power & data centers” that “it’s only been in the last several years that Apple, Google, Facebook and others have been embracing clean power as a viable option to provide a significant amount of power for their data centers, and it’s taken years for the power industry, and the internet companies themselves, to adjust to and learn about this emerging world.”
Fehrenbacher notes that when these large data centers from big brands began appearing in the mid-2000s that renewability wasn’t a concern in the least. “In those years, North Carolina’s [which Google picked to situate its early centers] power grid only generated four percent of its electricity from renewable sources, with coal at 61 percent and nuclear power at 31 percent. Google just plugged into the grid there anyways without a working strategy to incorporate clean power,” she writes.
This led to what Fehrenbacher calls a “dirty energy-generation mix.” It was only around 2010 that Google and even others like Facebook and Apple wised up. The next year, Apple’s centers had solar farms close by. Facebook looks to expand with a new Texas data center in the Forth Worth area, Michael Graham Richard reported in July 2015 in a Treehugger data center news article called “Facebook ‘likes’ clean power, new Texas data center to be powered by 100% wind energy.” As the headline suggests, this center can generate up to 200 megawatts of wind due in part to Facebook working with Starwood Energy Group, Alterra Power Corporation, and Citigroup Energy.
Of course, it’s not all good news. As Katie Fehrenbacher, this time writing for Fortune in a May 2015 piece called “The biggest barrier to Apple and Google’s clean power plans: Utilities,” certain companies like Virginia’s Dominion Resources and North Carolina’s Duke Energy want to take the clean power that brands like Google generates and sell it. While this is good for the environment since you’re cutting down on finite resources, these brand giants that want renewable data centers could run into trouble in the future. It just may not be the immediate future. “…According to Greenpeace’s report, Duke Energy’s green energy program hasn’t gained any traction. Customers have balked at paying the extra costs, or ‘administrative fees,’ charged by the utility,” Fehrenbacher reports.
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