Yesterday was Earth Day and of course, a huge part of understanding and evalutating the purpose of an environmental awareness day is thinking about the tech industry and the impact it creates on the planet. Greenpeace didn't miss a beat outting Apple, Facebook and Google as 'Earth Day enemies'. They released a report on the effects that cloud computing in particular had on the planet, and graded companies on how they powered their data centers.
They calculated these figures based on estimates
According to Greenpeace, computer servers at data centers make for 2% of the world's energy demand and the demand is growing at a rate of 12% per year. Around half the companies examined, including companies like Google, Facebook and Apple use coal to fuel their energy needs instead of renewable sources like solar power and wind power. Greenpeace admits though that it's hard to evaluate the overall environmental impact of data centers because they reduce the need of environmentally inefficient factors like CD usage, commuting and paper usage. The companies themselves are hesitant to release information which is why Greenpeace determined “clean energy index” and “coal intensity” based on estimates of power demand for evaluated facilities.
The big companies are making changes so they will eventually get in Greenpeace's good books. Google's signed off on a 20-year power purchasing agreement from a wind factory to power its data center in Oklahoma and Microsoft's recently agreed to buy wind energy for its Dublin data center.