Greenpeace has a gripe with some of the world's biggest tech giants over what it calls their dirty data centers.
Facebook, Google and Apple were called out by Greenpeace in a long report, called How Dirty Is Your Data? The report looks at how environmentally friendly companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo are acting. It also says these companies need to be transparent when it comes to the energy and carbon footprint from data infrastructure.
The report looks at data centers, the places where tech giants house the servers that process the gargantuan amount of data that makes their services work. What Greenpeace found was the data centers from some of the biggest companies often consume huge amounts of electricity, overall accounting for 1.5 to 2 percent of global energy demand.
Greenpeace said if the internet were a country, it would rank fifth in energy consumption behind Japan and above Russia. Much of the internet, Greenpeace found, runs on coal and nuclear energy. Most data centers do not use renewables.
Apple's latest data center is going to be one of the guilty parties when it opens this spring, Greenpeace says. The $1 billion Apple iData Center in Maiden, N.C. will consume 100 megawatts of electricity, which equals the usage of approximately 80,000 homes in the U.S.
The area has housed a number of other dirty data centers. Facebook's center in Forest, N.C. has an estimated power demand of 40 MW at a building cost of $450 million. Google's data center in Lenoir County, N.C., is estimated to use between 60 MW and 100 MW and cost $600 million to build. The supply in the area, Greenpeace found, contains five percent renewable energy, with the remaining 95 percent coming from sources like coal and nuclear.
The local government of Lenoir county provides tax incentives for Google, Facebook and Apple to bring their data centers there. Apple received $46 million in tax breaks, Google got incentives valued at $212 million over 30 years and Facebook got $17 million over 10 years.
Facebook was named by Greenpeace as the company that is quickly becoming the cloud computing company most dependent on electricity from coal. Over 53 percent of its facilities rely on coal. Google was lauded as it has invested in renewable energy and struck power purchasing agreements for its data centers.
Let's be clear -- today's technological innovations should not depend on increasing demand for the dirty energy sources of the past. The IT industry prides itself on making the world a more transparent place -- so it needs bold leaders who take responsibility for their own energy impacts, Greenpeace said in the report.
Facebook, Google and Apple did not respond to inquiries for comment.