Data Centers Move Toward 100% Renewable Energy

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – As more digitization occurs in daily life, corporate and cloud data centers have become increasingly large consumers of power. Data centers in the U.S. now consume about two percent of the total power produced in the country. In 2014, U.S. data centers consumed energy equivalent to the amount consumed by about 6.4 million average American homes that year, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study.

In the wake of the challenge that data centers now face to use power from renewable sources, technology giants such as Facebook, Apple, Google, eBay, and Microsoft have pledged to move their new data centers toward all-green operations. The following are some of the companies that are adopting strategies to minimize their data center environmental footprint.  


Google found that the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to its data center operations saved 40 percent in cooling and air-conditioning. Its DeepMind AI system was able to predict what temperature would be needed over the next hour, based on its machine learning, and the coolers were scaled back to meet that minimum requirement.


Apple's data center in Maiden, N.C. combines two 100-acre solar farms with a multiple fuel cell electricity generator using bio-gas collected from nearby landfills. Each solar farm produces 42 million KWh of electricity, for a total of 84 million KWh from solar, plus 40 million KWh of energy a year from the Bloom fuel cells.


eBay’s data center site in Utah is one of the few that is primarily powered by fuel cells of the sort that kept the Apollo spacecraft equipped with energy on its flight to the moon. A bank of 30 Bloom Energy fuel cells function a short distance from its server center, minimizing energy loss in transmission, supplemented by solar panels on the roof of the data center.


Amazon is building three new data centers in suburbs around Columbus. It is also building a wind farm in northwestern Ohio and financing another in Benton County, over the Indiana border. That combination gives Amazon 820,000 MWh of wind-generated power to plug into the Ohio grid and indirectly feed its data and distribution centers in the state.


In June, 2013, Facebook switched on one of the few new data centers built at a source of hydropower in Lulea, in northern Sweden, just below the Arctic Circle. The facility generates 100 percent of the power it uses from the nearby River Lule. Facebook said that the river's flow is so plentiful and reliable that it has reduced the number of backup generators on site by more than 70 percent.

Source: Information Week

Image Credit: Facebook / InformationWeek