Greenpeace: 500,000 Facebook Users Tell Social Network Site to Get Off Coal

by | Sep 2, 2010

In a campaign that started in February to get Facebook to change its strategy to power its planned data center in Prineville, Oregon, with renewable energy instead of coal, Greenpeace has garnered support from 500,000 Facebook users under its “Unfriend Coal” campaign against Facebook.

With half a million signatures in hand, Greenpeace sent a letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling for the world’s largest social network to cut ties to coal-fired power at its new data center in Oregon, reports Reuters.

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, writes in the letter: “Other cloud-based companies face similar choices and challenges as you do in building data centers, yet many are making smarter and cleaner investments.” He cites Google’s recent agreement to buy wind power from NextEra Energy for the next 20 years to power its data centers.

Facebook said the new facility is a highly energy-efficient data center on a cloud computing platform that is expected to lower energy consumption.

But Greenpeace says since the initial announcement Facebook has signed a deal to source its energy from PacificCorp, which uses 83 percent coal in its energy mix, according to the Associated Press, reports Reuters. But PacifiCorp said the number is 58 percent with the remainder from natural gas (20 percent), hydro (10 percent) and renewable energy (10 percent).

Greenpeace also says in its letter that Facebook plans to double the size of its data center, which translates into twice the energy use and twice the coal.

In response, Facebook told Greenpeace to get its own house in order, and said that Prineville will be one of the most efficient data centers in the world, reports TGDaily.

Barry Schnitt, Facebook’s director of policy communications, said in the article that the Prineville data center will have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.15, compared to the industry average of 1.6 to over 2.0.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace admitted that many of its own web hosting operations are also housed in data centers powered primarily by coal and nuclear power, reports The Guardian. The environmental group said it offset all the energy used to power its main website in Amsterdam and used renewable energy where it could including wind power for many of its servers in Washington.

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