How Data Centers Are Being Shaped By Green Technology

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Over the past several years, the world in general has moved toward more sustainable energy use, and more recently this has also been true for data centers. Companies of all shapes and sizes are now working to go green as best they can, and those which rely heavily on data center services to handle vast amounts of information are no different. Fortunately, a number of well-known online brands have gotten their commitment to going green to much higher levels than has ever been seen before within the industry.

Right now the data center sector is at something of a crossroads, according to new data from Greenpeace. While many companies in the field want to boost their renewable energy use – and almost 20 household names have committed to going 100 percent renewable in the near future – there simply aren't a lot of options for doing so right now, at least in certain parts of the U.S. and around the world. This creates an obvious issue for those that want to find, say, a data center for big internet that relies solely or mostly on green power.

Green power is catching on with data center providers.Green power is catching on with data center providers.

Transparency is an issue
Some of the biggest names in tech are pushing for clearer reporting when it comes to implementation and use of power sources like wind and solar, but others still lag behind, the report said. This is true not only when it comes to talking about how companies will move to adopt renewable energy sources, but also as it relates to how much energy they use in the first place.

For example, Netflix currently accounts for a third of all online traffic in the U.S., and has publicly pledged in 2015 to completely offset its carbon footprint, the report said. However, it hasn't provided much insight into how it is doing so, and does not seem to actually be investing in ongoing use of renewable resources. Altogether, the IT sector is estimated to use about 7 percent of all electricity worldwide and that number is likely to keep growing as more of the world becomes connected.

"Thanks to the leadership and advocacy of companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Switch, we are seeing the tech industry make major strides toward powering the internet with clean energy," said Greenpeace senior IT analyst Gary Cook. "A growing number of companies now recognize the need to transition to renewables, but we must see greater urgency and transparency across the board. Amazon Web Services is a prime example of a company that talks up its renewable projects, but keeps customers in the dark on its energy performance while expanding into markets served by dirty energy like Virginia."

Struggling markets
Currently only two regions in the U.S. rely on green energy for at least 12 percent of their data center power, according to Data Center Frontier. Those are Northern California (30 percent) and Dallas (12 percent). The other three major regions examined – Northern Virginia, Chicago, and New Jersey – all top out at about 3 percent, leaving options for companies with operations there quite limited.

The good news is that more data center capacity is being added in all those markets, and recent data from the federal government shows that efforts to offset non-renewable energy use from the data center sector alone will likely result in reducing power-related costs by about $60 billion over the next four years.

With all this in mind, it becomes vital for big companies that need to handle lots of information work to find a data center provider that can not only keep them connected in the event of any sort of issues that might arise, but also one with a commitment to renewables whenever possible. Depending upon the region, finding a green cloud data center could be relatively easy and go a long way for internet companies of all sizes.

How they're doing it
The company most highly rated by Greenpeace as meeting its clean energy goals is a smaller data center company in Nevada that now relies on solar power for 100 percent of its electricity, according to Quartz Media. In fact, the company was so devoted to the idea that it actually worked with local authorities to reach a deal with a local energy provider to obtain access to that solar power. It now purchases about 180 megawatts directly from solar companies and is planning to build its own renewable energy infrastructure to meet its growing needs as well.

By contrast, Google pays 2.6 gigawatts of renewable energy and still isn't at its goal of 100 percent clean power, the report said. It expects to reach that mark this year.

 

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