I don't really use Facebook but plenty of my friends do. They might be interested to know that the social network giant growth appears to be powered by coal, the number 1 cause of climate change. In late January, Facebook announced that its new Oregon data center, the data center farms that create the cloud that brings your friends' updates to your computer or smart phone, will be powered by a coal plant in Idaho. But why would Facebook choose to site their new center at a place powered by coal over another place in renewable energy-rich Oregon? Look no farther than cost.
With the price of hydropower increasing in the Northwest, Facebook opted to bet on the incremental price increases associated with coal rather than face tier-two pricing from BPA.
Brian Oley, a data center site selection expert at the real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said it's no secret that the Northwest's hydropower is getting tapped out. Oley expects that when tier-two pricing kicks in, prices will increase from two cents per kWh to six or seven cents.
Data center power use of the last decade is astounding. In 2000, data centers comprised 0.8 percent of total US electrical consumption, but just 5 years later, data centers' power consumption grew to 1.4 percent of the total energy use in the country, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Pineville-based data center will be powered by an outside-air intake system, which will cool the massive data servers at a lower carbon footprint. There are several new technologies that companies can use like this to lower their impact, but step 1 must be siting data centers in places where the grid has a higher mix of renewable energy. Companies like Facebook can use their spending power to influence government policy over new clean energy capacity.