Social networking website Facebook is coming under unprecedented pressure from its users to switch to renewable energy. In one of the web\’s fastest-growing environmental campaigns, Greenpeace international says at least 500,000 people have now protested at the organisation\’s intention to run its giant new data centre mainly on electricity produced by burning coal power.
Facebook will not say how much electricity it uses to stream video, store information and connect its 500m users but industry estimates suggest that at their present rate of growth all the data centres and telecommunication networks in the world will consume about 1,963bn kilowatt hours of electricity by 2020. That is more than triple their current consumption and more electricity than is used by France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.
Facebook announced in February that it planned to build what is expected to be the world\’s largest centralised data storage centres in Portland, Oregon. Although it will include some of the world\’s most energy-efficient computers, the sheer scale of the Facebook operation will almost certainly use more electricity than many developing countries.
Just wondering, but what are they expected to do?
Go build enough renewables to power their operation? To build as much generating capacity as a developing country has?
Do you know how much capital that would require? How many billions upon billions of $?
And, of course, as is still sadly true, renewables are hugely more expensive than coal fired power off the grid: if they weren\’t, we wouldn\’t actually have the general problem we do have, would we?
Now I know that Facebook is (currently) free at the point of use. But are those who say that they should be using electricity up to four times more expensive than coal fired willing to put their money where their mouth is? Or is it just painless posturing?