Clouds: Data Centers Have a Major Carbon Footprint

Clouds: Data Centers Have a Major Carbon Footprint
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According to the Washington Post via ACM Technews: “Data centers and mobile telecommunications networks use more than 623 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, and a 2008 study found that the information technology (IT) sector represented 2 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If the industry were a country, it would rank fifth in the world in terms of electricity demand. In addition, all but one of the U.S.’s major IT companies still rely on fossil fuels to power more than half of their cloud operations, according to a new Greenpeace report.

“Data centers and the cloud would be an environmental win if we build them in the right way, and connect them in the right way,” says Greenpeace’s Gary Cook. “If we just connect them to traditional sources of fossil fuel energy, that becomes a real train wreck.”

IT firms continue to grow as important customers for the U.S.’s utility companies. As this growth continues, IT firms are positioning themselves to lobby politicians and company executives to boost renewable energy supplies. Some IT companies are already using this leverage by choosing to have data centers near renewable sources, investing directly in renewable energy, or pushing for legislative changes on the state level.”

Greenpace: “How dirty is your data?” is the first ever report on the energy choices made by IT companies including Akamai, (Amazon Web Services), Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo, and highlights the need for greater transparency from global IT brands on the energy and carbon footprint of their Internet infrastructure.

View the Full report (PDF, 36 pages) or Facilities table (PDF, 4 pages)

Data centres – where the Internet comes from

With more of our daily rituals taking place online than ever before, the information we generate – videos, pictures, emails, status updates, news, tweets – ends up in giant data storage facilities called data centres. Packed full of computer servers, these facilities consume huge amounts of electricity, amounting to a incredible 1.5 to 2 percent of global energy demand (3 percent in the U.S.) – and it’s growing at a rate of 12 percent a year.

If the Internet was a country, it would rank 5th for the amount of electricity usage, just below Japan and above Russia. But unlike geographical states, the Internet’s data centres can be found all over the world, clustering in locations that offer strong tax incentives and cheap, but often dirty, electricity.

Sources: Greenpeace via ACM TechNews and Washington Post

Photo Credits: Cloud Computing By DavidGuthrie / FlickR