carbon footprint

Facebook to build green state of the art data centre

An artists impression of the Forth Worth data centre. Photo credit: Facebook.
By Anders Lorenzen

The world’s largest social media site is to build a data centre that will be the greenest in the world, sourcing all its electricity from renewable energy.

Some years ago Facebook came under fire from Greenpeace for using a large amount of fossil fuels in their data centres. Since then they have changed course, and have even been praised by the environmental group for adopting renewable energy and efficiency measures.

With the surge in online activities, gadgets, smart phones and social media, data centres have accelerated across the globe, and there is intense attention from environmental groups to ensure they are being designed and built to avoid an increase in carbon emissions.

Facebook’s data centre will be constructed in Forth Worth, Texas, and it will bring apps and services to its 1.44 billion users every day. Facebook say that it will be one of the most sustainable, efficient and advanced data centres in the world. Due to its location, the centre will be cooled by outdoor air, instead of relying on energy intensive and expensive air conditioning. Overall,  the company’s investment in efficiency over the last three years has saved them $2 billion in infrastructure costs.

Green -minded Facebook users will be pleased that it will run on 100% renewable energy from the 200 MW (megawatts) of wind power, which the company say they helped bring to the Texas grid as a part of the deal. The wind power project, which is currently under construction, is a partnership with Citigroup Energy, and it will start to deliver electricity to the grid by 2016. It is located northwest of Forth Worth, and a Facebook spokesperson told me that it will ensure that the data centre receives 100% renewable energy.  And due to this investment, Citigroup Energy has been enabled to invest in other renewable energy projects, I was told.

The company spokesperson told me that Facebook expect to hit 25% renewables overall for all their operations during 2015, and they are setting a short term goal of 50% renewables by 2018. In the long term they plan that eventually all their operations will run 100% on renewables.

Due to their ongoing investment in energy efficiency and renewables, Facebook say that the carbon impact of one average person`s yearly use of Facebook is the same as the carbon impact of one medium Caffé Latte. Last year they saved enough energy to power 80,000 US homes for a year, or the equivalent of taking 95,000 cars off the road for a year.

Facebook say they openly share their designs for their data centres .They recognize that industry needs to work together, to ensure that efficient and sustainable measures are taken over time.  This is done through the Open Compute Project, which now has more than 200 members and thousands of participants, all collaborating on the development of efficient and sustainable data centre technologies. A Facebook spokesperson told me that they continue to work with more than two dozen companies to enhance the use of renewables for corporations through the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. This they hope will make it easier for companies of all sizes to consume renewable energy in the US.

The data centre is the latest of Facebook’s data centres to run on 100% renewables. Altoona in Iowa is 100% powered by wind power, while Lulea in Sweden is powered by 100% hydropower.

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