Web-Scale Data Operators Trying to Deliver on Carbon-Neutrality Commitments

Cleaning Up Data Center Power is Dirty Work

Data Center Knowledge, July 20, 2015. Image credit: Arthur Caranta

Just this month, Facebook announced a 200 MW wind-power contract for its upcoming Texas data center, and Amazon said it had invested in a wind farm of similar capacity in North Carolina to address the energy use of its expansive data center cluster in Virginia. Announcements of investment in huge renewable-energy projects by web-scale data center operators like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are becoming more and more frequent as they try to deliver on their carbon-neutrality commitments.

Citing other studies, NREL researchers said US data centers consumed about 91 million MWh in 2013. For levels of renewable-energy consumption, they turned to the Carbon Disclosure Project, a UK organization that promotes corporate disclosure of greenhouse-gas emissions, and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership.

Out of the 113 companies, 27 used renewables to power 100 percent of their operations. Among them were Intel, SAP, Datapipe, and Motorola. Intel used more renewable energy than anyone else on the list: a little over 3 million MWh. Because it operates its own manufacturing facilities, the chipmaker consumes more energy than others.

Microsoft is the second-largest user of renewables, having consumed 1.4 million MWh in 2014 or half of its total energy use that year, followed by Google, which consumed about 890,000 MWh of renewable energy – about 40 percent of its total.

If one was to use this data to derive an average amount of renewable energy consumed by a tech company in the US, the result would be misleading. Only two companies used more than 1 million MWh last year; one consumed more than 500,000 MWh, and eight consumed more than 100,000 MWh. The list of top 30 consumers ranges from 12,000 MWh to 3 million MWh, with the amounts tapering off steeply as you go down the list.

Read More