You’d be forgiven, after reading our recent Powering the Nation report, to only be thinking about the power your computer’s sucking out of the plug socket when you’re online.
But the internet’s really big players are facing up to their responsibilities when it comes to a much larger cause of carbon emissions – the enormous data centres that power the search-engines, social networks and websites so familiar to us.
We’ve previously blogged on this subject – looking at Facebook’s attempts to cool their servers via simple geography – placing them towards the Arctic Circle, no less, as well as other company’s employment of abundant coastal hydroelectricity to power their servers, at least in part.
We’ll return to the most famous of the social networks in a sec, but the most recent server-related development is auction behemoth Ebay massively increasing their investment in Bloom Energy’s fuel cells, which create electricity from organic waste.
Ebay has already used the services of Bloom, considered a fast-rising star in Silicon Valley, for a smaller bank of cells at their HQ, but the 30 installed at their new data centre in Utah should mean grid electricity is only ever a backup option.
So back to Facebook – and proof that a sustained campaign can actually bring change at the top. Greenpeace have been on the company’s back for a while on the issue of data centres, and more specifically, coal-powering them (the social media campaign on Facebook was a big success).
Now, after talks, a truce has been agreed in which the two will collaborate. Tzeporah Berman, Co-director of Greenpeace’s International Climate and Energy Program, says:
“Greenpeace and Facebook will now work together to encourage major energy producers to move away from coal and instead invest in renewable energy. This move sets an example for the industry to follow.”
It’s clear that there is a shift in the industry afoot. Making sustainable change is a responsibility that falls to both massive companies like these changing the way they bring services to the public, and the way we use what we’re offered behind closed doors. So just because the big brands are cleaning up their act a bit, it’s no reason to assume a passive role.