Is Apple operating a dirty, coal-powered cloud?
Greenpeace seems to think it is (PDF), along with industry heavyweights Microsoft and Amazon. By its estimates, Apple’s data center in Maiden, North Carolina not only consumes a lot of energy, but it relies on power derived from coal-fired plants that service the region.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because Facebook was faced with the same criticism (reg req’d) two years ago when it picked Prineville, Ore. for the location of its first-ever data center build.
It has led to some interesting back and forth between Apple and the conservation group. The episode prompted Apple to drop some cold hard facts about its data center – a rarity for the normally secretive technology company.
Over at Datamation, I wrote about what Apple thinks about Greenpeace’s math:
In a statement, Apple called Greenpeace’s math into question. According to company, “Our data center in North Carolina will draw about 20 megawatts at full capacity,” far below Greenpeace’s estimates of roughly 100 megawatts.
Moreover, the facility is “on track to supply more than 60% of that power on-site from renewable sources, including a solar farm and fuel cell installation which will each be the largest of their kind in the country.”
Needless to say, Greenpeace is holding firm, saying its estimates are in fact conservative and calls the company out — along with cloud titan Amazon — for being less than transparent about its data center energy usage.
We made these estimates because companies like Apple and Amazon have not disclosed details of how much energy data centers use now and will in the future. We provided Apple with our data prior to releasing the “How Clean is Your Cloud?” report, and while they did not agree with our estimate, they declined to provide specific information on their energy demand.
Yeah, it’s all pretty heated, as the public spats between organizations go. Short of a tour of its facility — complete with a bullet-listed
PowerPoint Keynote presentation outlining the data center’s energy footprint and sourcing details — I don’t expect Greenpeace to let up.
And should it? The group has been remarkably effective in drawing attention to the environmental impact of cloud computing.
What do you think? Should Apple spill the beans on the “greeness” of its data center? Should Greenpeace take them at their word?
Sound off in the comments.
Image Credit: Adapted from Public Domain Photos – Flickr – CC