Over the last few years, technology companies have drawn attention for their impact on the environment with regard to what kind of power they use, and Facebook is no exception. As a company that runs some of the biggest data centers in the world, the leading social media company certainly consumes its fair share of power.
Unfortunately, like most companies running massive data centers, Facebook’s largest power source is coal, which generally offers lower costs in a company that spends over a million dollars every month on power. As a matter of fact, it was only through activism work by Greenpeace that Facebook decided to make its Swedish plant reliant on hydro-electric power.
The latest available energy usage data shows that Facebook uses well over 800M kWh a year. Most of this power is taken up by data centers, while a negligible amount is spent in office spaces and other facilities. Unfortunately, renewable energy represents a small percentage of the power the company spends every year. Most of the energy comes from coal, which accounts for 34%. Nuclear comes second at 23% while natural gas follows in third place at 17%. Basically, just 14% comes from clean and renewable energy sources.
Facebook’s Clean Energy Installation Completion And Plans
Facebook has ambitious plans to increase its use of clean energy. In fact, in 2014, Facebook stated that it had plans to raise its renewable energy use to 25% by the close of 2015. The company’s recently constructed Iowa plant relies 100% on wind energy. The company also made its Swedish plant to rely on hydroelectric energy rather than coal or other non-renewable source of power as had always been the tradition.
So, When Will Facebook Be Totally Clean Energy Powered?
At the moment, activist movements in support of sustainable energy sources, for instance, Greenpeace, have been at loggerheads with technology companies like Facebook for their poor environmental records. Technology companies now consume over 10% of the world’s electricity, which means their attempts to start using sustainable power such as wind and solar energy could significantly help reduce environmental degradation.
Facebook’s efforts to use cleaner energy over the last couple of years has obviously been helped by the fact that saving money and saving the planet can now go hand-in-hand. For instance, due to the company adopting the Open Compute Platform in 2011, a concept that revolutionizes data center design, the company was able to use almost 40% less power and make cost savings worth 24%.
The company has also began using Autoscale, a feature that improves data center power efficiency by up to 15%. The concept is based on the realization that servers are least efficient when at low capacity. During low traffic hours, this technology can cause power savings of up to 27%.
So, with the public as well as alternative energy advocates growing increasingly uncomfortable with the reluctance by large organizations to switch to the use clean energy, Facebook might find itself bowing to pressure and eventually relying exclusively on alternative energy sources such as solar energy to meet its massive and steadily growing power demands in the next couple of years. Considering that the company has plans to rely on 25% clean energy by 2015, and the pace that Facebook continues to grow, the company should be fossil fuel free and 100 % reliant on clean energy in about a 15 years or so.
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.