Facebook, one of the fastest growing and most innovative destinations on the web, recently announced a plan to build a massive data center in Prineville, Oregon. Unfortunately, while Facebook plans to build a highly energy-efficient data center, which saves it money in lower energy costs, the company has taken the cheap and easy -- not to mention dirty -- way out in choosing coal as the source of electricity that will power your Facebook profile.
Yes, coal -- that 19th century technology, which happens to be the dirtiest source of energy and biggest contributor to global warming -- will be burned in ever greater amounts with each photo shared and status update posted, unless Facebook changes its plans.
It doesn't have to be this way. Yahoo, for instance, built a date center near Buffalo, New York, that is powered by hydroelectric power, decreasing the data center's carbon footprint. Unfortunately, Facebook has chosen instead to go with PacifiCorp, a power company that generates the majority of its electricity from coal-fired power stations.
Facebook's Choice: Clean vs. Cheap
Data centers are huge consumers of electricity, and as more and more internet users shift to "cloud computing" platforms like Facebook, we can only expect this demand to grow. Companies who run their data centers on energy from burning coal are supporting the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions in the world. The only truly green data centers are the ones running on renewable energy.
Facebook has responded to criticism of this decision by pointing to its highly energy-efficient design standards and equipment specifications. Saving energy makes good business sense, and it's good for the environment too. But given the massive amounts of electricity that even energy-efficient data centers consume to run computers, backup power units, and power related cooling equipment, the last thing we need to be doing is building them in places where they are increasing demand for dirty coal-fired power.
Tell Facebook to Get Coal off Your Computer
Facebook and the cloud should be run on clean renewable energy. That was a clear demand that started spreading on the social network website this week, and will grow louder as more Facebook users send the message that they want clean energy to power their Facebook profile page.
The new data center won't be ready until 2011, so there is still time to push for truly clean solutions. When Facebook members have spoken strongly in the past, people power has moved the company to change its policies.
You can join the movement to kick coal off your computer and off of Facebook by joining our Facebook group. If the link doesn't work, please be patient and refresh your browser. Our Facebook group has "mysteriously" appeared, gone down, and then back up. Let's get Facebook off of coal.
Follow Daniel Kessler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dkess