Google, Facebook and the rest require vast computer banks to store all the data they collect. Data centers now consume 1.3 percent of the world’s electricity, Robert Bryce of the Wall Street Journal reported.
Within the next three years, that use will grow sixfold. Where will the power come from?
Facebook’s new data center in Prineville, Ore., covers 300,000 square feet. To put that in perspective, Laidley Tower covers 214,426 square feet.
To power such an array of computers requires 28 megawatts of power, as much electricity as 28,000 homes would use.
Greenpeace, a global environmental watchdog, recently graded Google, Facebook and other such computer firms on the greenness of their power choices. Greenpeace gave Facebook a “D” because so much of the power it uses comes from coal, nuclear and other unfashionable sources.
But as Bryce pointed out, to “go green” at its facility in Prineville, Facebook would have to cover an area of nearly 5.5 square miles – equivalent to four Central Parks – with wind turbines. And that estimate is based on the assumption that the turbines would have 100 percent efficiency.
Apple announced plans to use solar energy to help power a huge new data center in Maiden, N.C. An engineer on Amazon’s Web services team recently estimated that the half-million-square-foot facility would need 6.5 square miles of solar panels.
“Clean” energy is a worthy goal if it can be done at a reasonable price in a reasonable amount of space. Technology does not yet provide that.
Until it does, mandatory quotas on the use of alternative energy are impractical.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding