Greenpeace, in a report released last week, suggested that progress is being made in clean data center powering, but that at least one major organization is not being as transparent as it should be.
“Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet?” reports that Apple, Google, Facebook and Switch are doing their job in transitioning to clean energy and advocacy of renewables. On the flip side, however, the report says that Amazon Web Services, in the words of Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook, “talks up its renewable projects, but keeps customers in the dark on its energy performance while expanding into markets served by dirty energy like Virginia.”
The battle for clean data centers and ancillary facilities, which represent an ever-bigger portion of worldwide energy use, is by no means won:
Despite some movement, the lack of transparency by some of the largest players in the sector remains a critical barrier, masking both their current size and whether the renewable deals they are claiming are actually changing the power mix in the markets they are expanding into. Much clearer reporting, like we now see from industry leaders Apple, Facebook, and Switch, must be embraced by the massive cloud companies and colocation operators that most of the internet is powered by.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has emerged as a flashpoint, at least in the Greenpeace report. The organization called the company out, so to speak, in the press release announcing the study. Data Center Frontier followed up with a closer look in its report about the study. The story says that Greenpeace, unable to get information directly from AWS on its fast and extensive expansion in Loudoun and Prince William counties in Northern Virginia. There, the story says, AWS filed SEC documents saying that it has leased 1.3 million square feet of datacenter space during the past three years. Greenpeace had to rely on such filings and generator emissions permits to track AWS’s progress.
The bottom line is that AWS is a big deal in the region:
Greenpeace tracks permitting at 32 data center projects operated by Amazon across 14 locations in Loudoun and Prince William counties, including 25 existing facilities and seven that are in the planning and construction phase. AWS has sought permits for a total of 1.56 gigawatts of backup generator capacity.
Though they are not open with information, ASW clearly is moving toward energy efficiency and renewables. The story says that AWS in November announced five new solar farms in the area. When they come on line this year they will expand the company’s solar capacity in Northern Virginia from 80 MW to 180 MW, the story says.
AWS is active elsewhere, of course. Late last year, for example, Avangard opened a large windfarm on behalf of AWS near Elizabeth City, NC. The 22,000-acre farm is dotted with 104 wind turbines with the capacity to produce 208 MW of electricity. The project is not without controversy: There are fears that the farm could interfere with military training flights.