Facebook Can’t Satisfy Greenpeace with New Data Center Plans

by | Nov 15, 2010

Facebook’s decision to build its second data center in North Carolina shows that the company continues to see energy-efficient facilities as the best way to reduce its carbon footprint rather than building it near renewable energy sources, reports Data Center Knowledge.

Facebook has published several case studies of energy-efficiency projects that have reduced the carbon impact of the company’s data centers, according to the article.

At a recent panel session, Facebook’s director of data center engineering, shared tips on how the company has improved energy efficiency and cut costs at its data centers.

Facebook says it is currently building one of the most energy-efficient data centers to date in Prineville, Oregon. However, Greenpeace started a campaign in February to get Facebook to power the data center with renewable energy instead of coal.

Facebook signed a deal to source its energy from PacificCorp, which uses 83 percent coal in its energy mix, according to the Associated Press, reported Reuters, in September. 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 said that Facebook plans to double the size of its data center, which translates into twice the energy use and twice the coal.

The new Facebook site in Forest City is served by Duke Energy, which has an energy mix similar to that in Prineville, reports Data Center Knowledge. In 2009, Duke Energy generated 54.7 percent of its power from coal, 27 percent from nuclear power plants, 12 percent from wind and hydro-electric power, and 6.6 percent from natural gas, according to the article. The utility expects its mix of renewables to improve when it adds additional wind power generation.

But Greenpeace is not happy. “Facebook has again chosen a location that will increase demand for dirty energy,” said Greenpeace energy campaigner Gary Cook in a blog post. “Good corporate citizenship involves more than setting up a webpage dedicated to green issues, or becoming members of green clubs, just as energy efficiency is only the first step to managing your environmental footprint.”

The Greenpeace statement is in reference to the recent launch of Facebook’s new “green” page that details what the company is doing in the environmental space, and its recent partnerships with the Alliance to Save Energy and the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign (DESC).

Cook said Facebook missed an opportunity to follow the lead of Yahoo, which has built hydro-powered data centers in Quincy, Washington and Lockport, N.Y., reports Data Center Knowledge.

Facebook says the North Carolina data center will use many of the techniques used to conserve power at its Prineville site. These could include the use of evaporative cooling instead of a chiller system, re-using excess heat expelled by servers to heat office space in the building, and foregoing traditional uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and power distribution units (PDUs) by adding a 12-volt battery to each server power supply, reports Data Center Knowledge.

The Facebook facility may have a lower carbon impact than other data centers reliant on an energy mix featuring coal due to its location near Duke Energy’s Cliffside Steam Station, which is readying a “clean coal” facility featuring lower emissions than traditional coal plants, reports Data Center Knowledge.

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