From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive, the 21st century is making inroads into being more eco-friendly than ever before. So why should the web, our 21st century must-have, be any different? Short answer, it’s not. Plans are afoot to make the internet more ‘green’. Dubbed green hosting, or eco hosting, it includes things like carbon offsetting, using renewable energies and even planting trees. Who knew that surfing the web could be so eco-friendly?
Except that it’s not. Well not entirely. Because, of course, all the energy powering our internet enjoyment has to come from somewhere and alas electricity, traditionally, isn’t made by little green elves. In an article in the New York Times in 2008, journalist Steve Lohr quotes global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co as reporting that by 2020, it is estimated that the world’s data centres will be more polluting than the airline industry. That’s right, our love of being online will be worse for the environment than flying.
Of course, there are, thankfully always exceptions to the rule and companies such as Memset is one that is offering a better, more eco-friendly alternative. The British company, headed by Kate Craig-Wood, has been on the eco friendly trail since 2006 when it became the UK’s first Carbon Neutral Web host.
And Memset is not alone. Renewable energy experts in HP’s Sustainable Ecosystem Research Group have been working at HP Labs to put together a data centre powered by the sun. That’s a somewhat crude break-down of the hard-working eco-friendly boffins because what they have in fact done, is built a centre that is powered by a photovoltaic array, which, when the sun is shining at high noon, can generate electricity, peaking at 134 kilowatts.
Facebook is also making a show of going green with its plans to build a new eco friendly data centre in the Swedish city of Lulea, the first Facebook data centre to be built outside of the USA. And the reason the company picked the city? Because, at just 100km south of the Arctic Circle, the cold climate will help keep the servers cool and also because of the renewable hydro energy access Lulea affords. Once completed, this new centre will cover 30,000 sq m, the equivalent size of 11 football pitches, all full of data servers, ready to handle all data processing from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It will be the biggest of its kind in Europe and with those kinds of stats it’s good news for environmental campaigners. Particularly when you consider that each of Facebook’s American data centres, uses roughly the same amount of electricity as 30,000 US homes. And with around 40% of the world’s data centres being in the US, that’s something of a worry.
However, perhaps the new green data centre by Facebook is a milestone in the eco friendly internet timeline. And it will certainly come as a boost to green group, Greenpeace, who has been campaigning for years on the subject. In 2011 Greenpeace published a report called, How Dirty Is Your Data, which reported that over half of Facebook’s power was coal-generated. It spurred the Unfriend Coal campaign on Facebook with over 700,000 supporters, showing the power of the internet to go green.
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