Saturday, November 17, 2018

Big Tech Companies Are Driving Demand for Renewable Energy

Inside a Google data center. (Credit: Google) Click to Enlarge.
It takes a lot of electricity to keep the digital universe humming.  Some of it powers the actual servers and data storage drives, but the  majority of the electrons used by data centers at Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and other tech companies are needed to power the fans and air conditioning units needed to keep all that hardware cool.

Being Good Stewards Of The Earth
Publicly traded companies are under pressure from investors today to obtain the electricity they use from renewable sources.  There’s something just not right about creating carbon emissions to operate the internet.  According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the tech industry has contracted for more renewable energy — 2,581 megawatts — than any other sector of the global economy.  It has signed deals for 10.4 gigawatts more just this year.

Google is the largest consumer of green energy in the world at more than 3 gigawatts, followed by Facebook at 2 gigawatts, and Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon at around 1 gigawatt each.  A typical nuclear power plant generates about 1 gigawatt of electricity.

The Internet Of Things
The internet of things is growing exponentially.  There are 27 billion devices connected to the internet today, according to IHS Markit, but that number is expected to explode to 138 billion by 2030, reports Bloomberg, as everything from thermostats to doorbells to self-driving cars begin sharing data with tech companies and with each other.  That means utility companies are starting to view tech companies as important new customers for the electricity they produce.  IHS Markit estimates data centers are responsible for 2 to 3% of all electricity consumed in developed countries.

Many data centers are being located in Scandinavia, where abundant hydro power is available.  Those countries also tend to have lower average temperatures, which reduces the cooling loads on the centers.  Andreas Regnell, head of strategy at Vattenfall AB, Sweden’s largest utility, tells BNEF, “In the near term, I think we will probably see data centers as the biggest driver of power demand, at least in the Nordics.”

Advances in technology may make computers and servers more efficient in the future.   Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer at the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford, tells BNEF, “On one hand you have a rapid increase in computation, data transfers and number of computations.  But on the other hand you have improvements in the efficiency of these computations.  Operators are figuring out ways to deliver more computing using the same or less energy.”

Read more at Big Tech Companies Are Driving Demand for Renewable Energy

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