Friday, April 27, 2012


Is the title of a Greenpeace report on an important but often overlooked: the energy consumption of data centers. This problem is even more important today that we are witnessing a shift of resources to the cloud: the environmentalist NGO is particularly interested in leading this area, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Greenpeace ready nevertheless open to criticism based again only on the declarative: it tackles thought Apple is Apple who finally tackled.

"The growth of cloud computing is exponential and the demand for electricity it generates is very strong.”Greenpeace puts the finger on an important aspect of the Internet, the energy consumption of network infrastructure. At the movement of resources to local machines in the "cloud", the big Internet players multiply data centers, large electricity consumers. Even leaving aside the cloud, simply sending a mail or simply by consulting a web page are consumers of resources. A study by Biois on behalf of ADEME and shows that on average, a French company of 100 people annually emits 13.6 tons of CO2 just by sending emails, the equivalent of 13 round trips Paris / New York by plane. By the same principle of evaluation, all French Internet users would issue for his 287,600 tons of CO2 each year by conducting research on the web. A computer and internet can certainly do without paper, but their environmental impact is far from neutral.

In France, 78% of the electricity needed to power computers and network infrastructure are provided by the nuclear source challenged its potential risks, waste generation and difficult to treat hazardous and its waste heat water withdrawal, but has the advantage of emitting relatively little CO2, a major greenhouse gas. On its entire life cycle, nuclear power and emits up to 175 times less CO2 than coal. Even if nuclear power is problematic, Greenpeace is particularly interested in the use of coal, "this demand is met mainly from dirty energy sources, hazardous to our health such as coal.”With gas, it is indeed now the main fuel used to supply electricity to data centers operating services giants Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft or Facebook. 

 The datacenters Dutch and Dutch Google or Microsoft are powered by an electricity produced over 60% by gas-fired / natural gas, while the German installations of IBM must supply 44% of their coal plants. The share of renewable in the batch is still much greater in Europe than in the U.S., Google's Belgian facilities being even more efficient than the average with a passive cooling allowed by the climate of the region. 20% of German electricity is produced and renewable energy, a share that rises to 60% in Sweden, where Facebook and Spotify have data centers! The performance was much worse for large American centers specialized in accommodation, which are installed including Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook or Amazon. The Facebook data center in Prineville, Oregon, is often praised for its efficiency, but 60% of its electricity comes from coal. And Apple should just locate in Prineville. At Maiden, where Apple recently opened one of the largest data centers in the world, this is still about 60% of the electricity generated by coal plants.

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