Friday, June 08, 2012

Robert Bryce: Renewable Energy Can't Run the Cloud -

Link: (via

Apple has touted its plan to use solar energy to help run its massive new data center in Maiden, N.C. But in a recent blog post ( titled "I Love Solar Power But," James Hamilton, a vice president and engineer on Amazon's Web services team, calculated that the 500,000 square-foot facility would need about 6.5 square miles of solar panels.
He noted that setting aside that kind of space in densely populated regions, where many data centers are built, is "ridiculous" and would be particularly difficult because the land couldn't have any trees or structures that could cast shadows on the panels.
Wind? An average wind-energy project has an electricity-generating capacity of about two watts per square meter. Even assuming that a wind project produces electricity 100% of the time (it won't), Facebook's data center in Prineville would need a wind project covering about 14 million square meters, nearly 5.5 square miles, or about four times the size of New York City's Central Park.
The mismatch between the power demands of Big Data and the renewable-energy darlings of the moment are obvious. U.S. data centers are now consuming about 86 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, or about 43 times as much electricity as is produced by all the solar-energy projects in America.
"Clean energy" is a great friend for Facebook, Apple and every other energy consumer in America—as long as those consumers don't use much energy at all.

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