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Old Apr 17, 2012, 10:58 AM   #1
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Greenpeace Takes on Apple and Other Tech Companies over Coal-Powered Data Centers




Activist group Greenpeace today issued a new report entitled How Clean is Your Cloud?, targeting major Internet companies including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft over their heavy use of coal-derived power for their massive data centers.
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Given the energy-intensive nature of maintaining the cloud, access to significant amounts of electricity is a key factor in decisions about where to build these data centers. Since electricity plays a critical role in the cost structure of companies that use the cloud, there have been dramatic strides made in improving the energy efficiency design of the facilities and the thousands of computers that go inside. However, despite significant improvements in efficiency, the exponential growth in cloud computing far outstrips these energy savings. Companies must look not only at how efficiently they are consuming electricity, but also the sources of electricity that they are choosing.
The study covers 14 Internet companies, but singles out Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft as the biggest offenders. According to Greenpeace's data, Apple is the only one of the 14 companies to derive more than half of its data center power (55%) from coal. Apple also ranks third in the share of its power needs coming from nuclear sources.




Greenpeace acknowledges Apple's work to build a 20-megawatt solar farm and 5-megawatt fuel cell facility at its new data center in Maiden, North Carolina, but downplays their significance by claiming that the facilities will cover only 10% of the site's power needs. Greenpeace specifically takes Apple to task for its decision to locate its data center in North Carolina, which reportedly maintains one of the dirtiest power grids in the country. In particular, Duke Energy is continuing to invest in coal and nuclear power options while investing "very little" in renewable energy. A similar situation exists in Prineville, Oregon, where Apple has announced plans for another data center.
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To deliver iCloud services, Apple has dramatically expanded its data center infrastructure. It has invested at least $1bn in an "iDataCenter" in North Carolina, one of the world's largest data centers, and just announced another facility to be built in Prineville, Oregon. Unfortunately, both of these investments are powered by utilities that rely mostly on coal power. Given the lack of transparency, siting policy or a clear commitment to power the iCloud with renewable energy, Apple is finding itself behind other companies such as Facebook and Google who are angling to control a bigger piece of the cloud.
Apple maintains a significant environmental section of its website, including disclosures on its Maiden data center, which the company believes is the only data center of its size to achieve a LEED Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. But while Greenpeace gives Apple some credit for its steps, the organization continues to give Apple poor marks for a lack of complete transparency about its data center power demands and publicly-available policies regarding the energy considerations for its projects.

While Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft take the brunt of Greenpeace's criticism, Yahoo and Google receive high marks for their policies prioritizing renewable energy in their projects and for promoting policies to increase investment in renewable energy. Facebook also receives high marks for its recent commitment to renewable energy, including its latest data center in Sweden that can be powered with 100% renewable energy.

Update: In a statement issued to The New York Times, Apple discloses for the first time that the current data center in Maiden, North Carolina consumes roughly 20 megawatts of power, meaning that the 25 megawatts of power planned for the solar farm and fuel cell facility at that location should be sufficient for at least this phase of the project. Apple's long-term plans include eventually doubling the size of the data center with a second building, and it seems unlikely that the 20-megawatt number includes those plans.
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In a statement issued in response to the report, Apple disclosed for the first time that the data center would consume about 20 million watts at full capacity -- much lower than Greenpeace's estimate, which is 100 million watts. In territory served by Duke, a million watts is enough to power 750 to 1,000 homes.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, added that the company is building two large projects intended to offset energy use from the grid in North Carolina: an array of solar panels and a set of fuel cells.
Update 2: Greenpeace has responded with a blog post questioning Apple's statements about energy usage at the Maiden data center.
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While it is good to see Apple acknowledge it should reveal more details of the energy consumption of its data centers, the information they released today does not add up with what they have reported to be the size of the investment and physical size of the data center. [...] While Apple is well known for making more expensive consumer products, if Apple's plans for the $ 1Billion investment only generates 20MW in power demand, that would be taking the "Apple premium" to a whole new level.
Article Link: Greenpeace Takes on Apple and Other Tech Companies over Coal-Powered Data Centers
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:00 AM   #2
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So what.... were they supposed to either build their own nuclear power plants or build a state-sized solar farm to power those data centers?
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:00 AM   #3
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:00 AM   #4
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I thought the world was done caring about these nut jobs and their moronic "studies". Guess not...
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:01 AM   #5
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Perhaps they don't understand Apple's data center will have:
- largest solar panel installment
- largest fuel cell installment
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:02 AM   #6
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Apple does what it can to be energy efficient as do most publicly watched companies. they need the juice to provide the services that also provide jobs. it is not their decision how the local community produces that energy.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:02 AM   #7
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We all should live in the stone age.

Apple is doing their best to add environmental-friendly equipment to their data centers. What?
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:03 AM   #8
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Why won't Greenpeace tell me how to see what color my electrons are?! I'm electron colorblind! The horror! Won't someone tell me which electrons are green?!
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:03 AM   #9
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And if Greenpeace actually mattered at all, this would mean something....
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:03 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Consultant View Post
Perhaps they don't understand Apple's data center will have:
- largest solar panel installment
- largest fuel cell installment
Read the OP, Greenpeace acknowledged it but is obvioulsy downplaying it since they say it only covers 10% of the energy needs.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:03 AM   #11
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Nothing produces clouds as good as the old coal technology!
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:06 AM   #12
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What about Whale Blubber?

Apple could build gigantic salt water ponds, and fill them with whales... the Whales could be fed a diet of krill fed from organically raised soy and magic... We could populate these lakes with Humpback whales and harvest them for oil to run the iCloud, then we could seal the whole thing in a corn-based plastic dome to ensure that there was zero impact on the surrounding area.

Or we could consider the decreased environmental impact of data centers in a variety of other ways, such as decreasing the need for onsite hardware by up to 95% percent.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:09 AM   #13
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96.5% of all carbon dioxide emissions are from natural sources; mankind is responsible for only 3.5%, with 0.6% coming from fuel to move vehicles, and about 1% from fuel to heat buildings
Also data centres never run all the server at all times. Companies that have data centres already try to cut on electricity costs as much they can. The argument is moot.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:09 AM   #14
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lol @ Greenpeace.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:11 AM   #15
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...and large data centers are more power efficient than a bunch of small data centers.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:12 AM   #16
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I'm not a huge fan of Greenpeace (I'm really an Environmental Defense supporter more than anything else), but they have something of a point here. I think it's absurd that Apple located the data center in NC. Despite being LEED, locating in a warm climate dramatically increases cooling costs. Many companies are now looking to locate data centers in the Northeast (specifically upstate NY) because the cooler climate dramatically reduces energy consumption. I'd have a hard time believing that this is offset by the better solar climate in NC. You'd see a much better power mix in the NE also, but that's really a secondary benefit.

The Oregon location I find much less fault with, as there's a much more temperate climate there than NC. Besides, with Apple's size they can probably cut deals and buy renewable power wholesale from a generator and just pay the utility for transmission. There's a ton of hydro and an increasing amount of wind in the OR/WA area.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:12 AM   #17
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Apple should store its data in Iceland. 100% renewable green energy and a big fat data link to the US.

http://www.thordc.com/
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:13 AM   #18
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Never happy

Even after Apple switches to 100% green energy to power their sites Greenpeace will still fault Apple and complain that the manufacturing process of green energy equipment and technologies aren't using 100% green energy.

How can anyone take this organization seriously anymore? Are companies supposed to switch overnight? Green resources aren't economical, or efficient enough yet to be viable to completely replace carbon based resources.

They've become nothing more than attention mongering media hacks.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:13 AM   #19
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I'm all for cleaning up the the environment but if they're complaining about apple after they showed off their solar plans then they are pretty dumb


Also i'm tired of greenpeace complaining about nuclear energy. if he hadn't been so scared of nuclear energy in the 70s and 80s we'd wouldn't even have this global warming problem.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:13 AM   #20
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People should know that these windmills never pay for theirselves, ever. Also, for every Megawatt produced by wind and solar it has to be backed by either coal or nuclear. Alternative energy is not that reliable. How many times have you driven by a wind farm with hundreds of windmills and only seen 15 or 20 operating? In North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming they have approx 250 years of coal left in this area at the same rate that they are pumping it out today. Coal is here to stay. There are huge advancement in scrubbers to reduce toxins released. Over the next 4 to 5 years over 21,000 Megawatts are being shut down across the US as a result from the EPA's regulations that have been set forth. Thousands of jobs will be lost. I was at a power plant the other day and 90 people were laid off because of the repercussions from the regulations. People will start bitching when they lose power everyday and their bills double. Coal is not as bad as the public is led to believe.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:14 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by MacRumors View Post
The study covers 14 Internet companies, but singles out Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft as the biggest offenders.
Makes me wonder...What OS these activist use?
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:14 AM   #22
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:15 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Man4allsea View Post

Or we could consider the decreased environmental impact of data centers in a variety of other ways, such as decreasing the need for onsite hardware by up to 95% percent.
I just had some whale "bacon" in Japan a couple weeks ago. Mmmm. Tasty.

One wonders if these aging hippies at greenpeace have thought about the societal impact of cloud computing in terms of the reduced need for commuting and transport of surface mail and transport and production of physical media for ordinary business needs.

One suspects a significant impact, but that's too much for these micro brains to handle methinks.
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:15 AM   #24
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So a new fad of green. I support
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Old Apr 17, 2012, 11:16 AM   #25
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My, my...we do take criticism well, don't we?!
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