Apple Gets Bad Grades on Green Cloud Computing
Browsing the Apple iTunes store or checking up on Facebook doesn't come without dirty energy costs. Greenpeace has found that Apple tops the list of cloud computing companies which rely upon coal power to feed their energy-hungry data centers, followed closely by Facebook and IBM. [See bottom for an update]
The new Greenpeace report, called "How Dirty is Your Data," takes a look at how green are the data centers run by the 10 leading global companies which support everything from Web searches to online shopping, according to Silicon Republic. The companies include: Akamai, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo!
Apple earned first place on the dirty cloud computing list for having 54.5 percent of its data centers rely upon coal power. That may only worsen if the company goes ahead with its planned $1 billion iData Center in North Carolina, which has an electrical grid powered by 61 percent coal and 31 percent nuclear sources.
The new iData Center would consume as much as 100 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 80,000 homes in the U.S.
"The massive iDataCenter has estimated electricity demand (at full capacity) as high as triple Apple's current total reported electricity use, which will unfortunately have a significant impact on Apple's environmental footprint," Greepeace said in the report.
But Apple just barely came ahead on the dirty cloud computing list. Facebook came in at a close second with 53.2 percent, and IBM was third with 51.6 percent.
Greenpeace described Facebook as a "transformational young company" connecting 600 million people worldwide that "has thus far failed to recognize the risk and responsibility of how it sources electricity." It added that Facebook "appears to lack the vision to become a company powered by clean energy."
The list is rounded out by HP at 49.4 percent, Twitter at 42.5 percent, Google at 34.7 percent, Microsoft at 34.1 percent, Amazon at 28.5 percent and Yahoo! at 18.3 percent.
Such a report illustrates the broader clean energy challenge facing the U.S. and other countries of the world. But the focus upon cloud computing emphasizes the latest innovation transforming the world. Will Americans prove clever enough to build a future where both real and virtual economies run on clean energy?
UPDATE: GreenTechMedia points out that cloud computing has helped replace more fossil fuel-intensive activities.
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