How the World’s Biggest Data Centers are Going Green
Take a look at all the electronics around your home. If you can’t find an Energy Star sticker on any of them, chances are you’re buying from a manufacturer that isn’t particularly environmentally-conscious. Going green is a big part of the tech industry’s focus in 2017 and beyond, but it’s not our gadgets making the biggest impact on climate change; rather, it’s the mega-sized data centers hosting all our information.
Data centers consume a lot of energy. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates they consume more than $3 billion annually in energy costs — and that doesn’t even account for the Apples and Googles of the world. That’s because these corporations are leading the way for completely sustainable energy to power the world’s largest data centers. This is how they are making it happen:
Cloud Data vs Server Rooms
Before jumping into these mega data centers, it should be noted that cloud computing in general is better for energy consumption. Companies like Mozy are drawing small businesses away from using rooms full of local servers, which are often the biggest culprits of energy waste.
If you own an iPhone, then there’s a good chance your photos, videos, emails and backups are all sitting somewhere in an Apple data center. We’re talking about one of the biggest tech companies in the world, and Apple manages data belonging to millions of people every day. So when the company announced it would run its data centers on 100 percent renewable energy, it made headlines for all the right reasons: to minimize the environmental footprint of their data center operations.
In fact, Apple achieved this feat years ago when other companies were just starting to think about renewable energy. Today, Apple uses solar farms next to its data centers in North Carolina, Ireland and other locations around the world to reach that feat of fully renewable energy. Just one of those solar farms can produce up to 42m kWh of energy per year — plenty to power one data center.
Google is one of the few companies on the planet with more data storage needs than Apple. If you use any Google service — Gmail, Photos, Calendar, Docs — you may know that these programs are managed in one of the company’s global data centers. Google is a company that lives in the cloud, so going completely green in 2017 was a big step for the Silicon Valley giant.
According to The New York Times, roughly 25 percent of U.S. energy goes toward business-related needs — and Google accounts for a whopping 2 percent of that chunk. In an effort to decrease its energy consumption and reliance, Google needed to build major wind and solar farms in order to create enough power to close that gap. After more than a decade, Google finally realized that goal in 2017.
Amazon Web Services
There’s a good chance at least one of your favorite websites is powered by Amazon Web Services. Yes, that’s right. The online retail giant you believed only shipped your favorite products in two days or fewer is actually one of the largest data hosts in the world.
Amazon has roughly the same data needs of Apple and Google, and potentially even more corporations. But while Amazon isn’t yet 100 percent powered by renewable energy, it did reach the 50 percent mark in 2017. And, in a world of mass energy consumption, that’s certainly nothing to sneeze about.