Facebook’s New Datacentre: a renewable-powered friend?

by David Pomerantz

October 27, 2011

Today the tech and business media are all a-twitter about Facebook, after news that company will start constructing its first datacentre outside the United States, close to the Arctic Circle, in Lule, Sweden.

By locating the datacentre in Lule, it can use free cooling from the frigid local climate and be close to renewable hydropower in the region.

If you ‘like’ Facebook’s news, let them know at ourFacebook: Unfriend Coal page. And invite your friends to join the campaign – it isn’t over yet!


This is big news for our Unfriend Coal Campaign: over the past 20 months 700,000 of us havecampaigned online and around the world for a greener Facebook. One of the big reasons for putting pressure on Facebook was that the company chose to power its first two self-owned data center primarily with coal. So it wasa big sign of progresswhen news reached us that Facebooks spokesperson Michael Kirklandwas quotedsaying that the Lule datacentre:

“will be the first Facebook datacentre powered primarily by renewable power it’s a really important consideration for us”.

Facebook hasnt yet released the full details about the data center, or how it will be powered but we like what weve heard so far.There are lots of possibilities for Facebook to ensure it is increasing demand for renewable power with this new data center.

We often get asked, especially by people new to the Unfriend Coal campaign, about why getting Facebook to go renewable is such an important issue. We’ve found that most people dont realisehow much electricity is needed to power our internet-connected lives. A lot of digital life now exists online on the cloud, whether its email, streaming video, or our Facebook status updates. The cloud is run, in part, by these massive data centers and these huge facilities are amongst the fastest growing sources of electricity demand. In fact, if the cloud was a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world in terms of electricity use.

In the US,which hosts approximately 40% of the worlds data-center servers, data-center electricity consumption increased by nearly 40% during the economic downturn of 2007-2010. That’s why when we released our“How Dirty is Your Data?”report earlier this year, people were shocked to see companies like Facebook and Apple powering the majority of their online services throughcoal.And with each of Facebook’s US data centers estimated to use the same amount of electricity asroughly 30,000 US homes, this is a lot of new coal pollution – and it comes right at time when we need to be reducing, not increasing, our fossil fuel use.

This data center is being built for Facebooks millions of European users andthere may be more data centers on the wayto provide for Facebooks global users.

This rapid growth is why we need green cloud and not a dirty one, and why today’s news is a great step forward for Facebook.We want to congratulate them on their progress — and congratulate all of you who have been part of this campaign.But it’s not over — Facebook can and should make the preference for building datacentres with renewable energy a permanent company policy, and the company should disclose its overall carbon footprint and use its purchasing power to demand more renewable energy from the utilities that currently supply Facebook’s electricity, for the data centers in North Carolina and Oregon.

But let’s take a moment to enjoy this important move forward by Facebook, and recognize that we all including users who are demanding change from the company, and Facebook itself, are contributing towards a greener Facebook for all of the 800 million users on its social network.


David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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