Renewable Energy Can’t Run the Cloud

Data centers now consume about 1.3% of all global electricity.

Before Facebook’s recent initial public offering, the media obsessed over superlatives. It was the largest-ever IPO for a U.S. technology company. It was the third-largest in U.S. history. And now the obsession is over the company’s lackluster revenue prospects and possible misconduct by investment bankers involved in the offering.

Missing here is any awareness of the enormous quantities of electricity Facebook and other data-intensive technology companies require. Those requirements expose a fundamental mismatch between the high-power-density world of Big Data and the low-density electricity production inherent in most renewable energy projects.

In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb. 1, Facebook said that it stores more than 100 petabytes of information. (That’s 100 million gigabytes.) Facebook spreads that gargantuan quantity of data among a handful of warehouse-size data centers filled with servers located in Virginia, California and Oregon. The company’s new data center is a 300,000 square-foot facility in Prineville, Ore., that draws 28 megawatts, enough power for about 28,000 homes… Read more


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