Data centers use massive amounts of energy
Image: Green House Data
Lyndsey Gilpin has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Lyndsey Gilpin is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers sustainability, tech leadership, 3D printing, and social entrepreneurship. She's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks.
Check out the Green Peace infographic, about half way down the article, about what percentage of the major vendors power comes from coal.
While I admire any attempt to stay away from fossil fuels, warming up Iceland, or anywhere else, to keep Facebook accounts cool is still going to be difficult to explain to polar bears.
I note the Green House Data graphic includes buying carbon offsets in their statement.
It'd be worth discovering how much of the picture they paint is tied to that farce.
I agree with boomchuck1 below. Solar isn't just effective in blazing sunning conditions especially with newer generation cells. A cold overcast day can sometimes generate as much energy as a hot sunny day because the cells are more efficient in colder climates.
We will always need data centres and there will always be debates over the most appropriate energy source. I am a reseller of off grid IT systems and the most energy efficient servers currently available. They are the only machines with a 4* energy rating. They operate from DC power which we provide from Deep Cycle batteries that are trickle charged from Solar Cells during the day or from Economy Seven electricity at night (UK term).
The DC approach is also compatible with Nuke and Coal powered generation because these sources cannot be turned on and off at the flick of a switch. There is an awful lot of energy that is available at night which is not being utilised between 11pm and 5am which can be used to charge up batteries at night and then you could run a data centre off grid during the day.
The servers consume a fraction of the energy of a conventional AC powered machine to run and also don't generate as much heat. Because their primary source of energy is a large battery and there is no messing around with AC/DC/AC conversions you get a UPS by default which also saves thousands of pounds to buy.
We build Xeon based machines to power school IT suites which use Zero clients, office admin servers, webservers , storage servers. It is possible and viable to go off grid with much more modest Solar Arrays than it was just a couple of years ago.
The server power supplies can take anywhere between 14 and 50v dc and this powers the machine and also charges the integrated UPS so what I am saying, what we do IS run a wire from solar panels and windmills directly to our server racks...
So let's assume that a company does indeed have windmills and solar. Great! But why use that power when the local utility will buy it for a premium price? (Note -- "green" energy is propped up by premium prices caused by either legal mandates, taxpayer subsidies, or both, in pretty much every place it is generated.)
So here is what you do... you generate the power, and SELL IT to the local utility. You get those "green" photos AND make a bit of money! And then, you use good ole regular 'juice from the locals, generated by coal, nukes, natural gas, hydro, whatever. 'Cause that is much cheaper.
Not saying that this is what they ALL do, but it's not like there is a wire running from solar panels and windmills directly to server racks... ya know?
Wind power has massive known side effects, Solar is only good within the tropical regions and Carbon offsets are just paying someone else to be dirty for you.
All smoke and mirrors.
@Arronmd Amen. I drive around the Midwest and see those hideosities all over. Saw them in California too. Most of the time only a few were rotating. They are ugly. They put blinking red lights on top (so aircraft don't run into them) and coming over a hill at night, you see all these lights blinking. Unnerving, actually because they are all on or all off. They blink as one, as if they are a malevolent creature. The first time I saw them doing that, all I could think of was the cartoons where the character enters a cave and sees these evil blinking eyes.
@DAS01 Only good in Southern California? You obviously have no experience. I have a 4.8kwh solar array on my house in Salem Oregon. Not exactly the sunshine capitol of the world I will admit. Still, I generated enough power from it this last year that I didn't have to pay an electric bill, other than the $10/month connection fee, for 6 months. And my house is all electric - heat, cooking, water heater, air conditioning, everything. Of course you'll get more benefit in the desert southwest, but the sun shines on the whole planet.
@boomchuck1, powering a few homes is one thing, powering cities and railways is another. I am aware that you do not need desert sunshine for low volumes, since we have solar schemes in non-desert-sunny UK, too.
Actually I was interested in Mark Jackson's subsequent comments, especially about utilising night-time electricity. Sounds good to me.