Facebook, one of the fastest growing destinations on the web, recently announced its plan to build a massive data center in Prineville, Oregon. Unfortunately, while Facebook plans to build a highly energy-efficient data center, which saves it money in lower energy costs, the company has taken the cheap and easy — not to mention dirty — way out in choosing coal as the source of electricity that will power your Facebook profile.
Yes, coal - that 19th century technology, which happens to be the dirtiest source of energy and biggest contributor to global warming - will be burned in ever greater amounts with each photo shared and status update posted, unless Facebook changes its plans.
Facebook's Choice: Clean vs. Cheap
Data centers are huge consumers of electricity, and as more and more internet users shift to "cloud computing" platforms like Facebook, we can only expect this demand to grow. Companies who run their data centers on energy from burning coal are supporting the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions in the world. The only truly green data centers are the ones running on renewable energy.
Facebook faces the same choices and challenges that other large "cloud computing" companies face in building their data centers. While other companies have chosen Oregon as a good choice given the abundant hydropower, it is expected to become more expensive by the time Facebook's data center is completed, and Facebook has chosen instead to go with PacifiCorp, a power company that generates the majority of its electricity from coal-fired power stations.
Facebook has responded to criticism of this decision by pointing to its highly energy-efficient design standards and equipment specifications. Saving energy makes good business sense, and it's good for the environment too. But given the massive amounts of electricity that even energy-efficient data centers consume to run computers, backup power units, and related cooling equipment, the last thing we need to be doing is building them in places where they are increasing demand for dirty coal-fired power.
If your Facebook page is being powered by coal, then it's contributing to climate change. How do you like that?
Tell Facebook to Get Coal off Your Computer
Facebook should be run on clean renewable energy. That was a clear demand that started spreading on the social network website this week, and will grow louder as more Facebook users send the message that they want clean energy to power their Facebook profile page.
The new data center won't be ready until 2011, so there is still time to push for truly clean solutions. When Facebook members have spoken strongly in the past, people power has moved the company to change its policies.
Big electricity consumers like Facebook can also play an important role by using their influence to advocate for government policies that dramatically increase the supply of renewable electricity. Facebook could and should be championing clean energy solutions, and not relying on the dirty fuel sources of the past to power their new data center.
Join our Facebook group and help us get the social networking website to go green.
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