Surprise, surprise to find the Vancouver Sun newspaper of all folks running an article that the Internet is killing the planet.
It really isn’t the stretch that some of you may think it is. Say you do a Google search. Your query kicks into action about 1,000 servers at various Google data centers. Those computers scan billions of web pages already in Google’s archives on your behalf and bring back a result (usually 1.8+ million other links you could access). When you take one billion daily Google searches, together with some 60 million Facebook status updates each day, and pile on 50 million daily tweets plus 250 billion emails per day, you’re using a whole bunch of electricity, and not just at your end of the computer.
The bulk of all this energy being used is from a fast-growing network of huge “server farms” or data centers that are the backbone of the Internet. These are the computers that make the Internet what it is, routing traffic and storing all of that ever-expanding globs of data. The data centers are hi-tech, hi-security facilities, some the size of five Wal-Marts, packed from floor to ceiling with tens of thousands of computers. Not only do all those computers have an insatiable appetite for energy, but they also require hi-capacity cooling equipment to prevent overheating.
For example, as the article notes — Apple’s 46,000-square-metre iDataCenter is about to open in North Carolina (which worked very hard to recruit them and the jobs it brings to their cheap electric state) will use an estimated 100 megawatts of power — as much as about 100,000 homes. Ah, but there is more: Google has a 44,000-square-metre data center already in the state that is expected to consume an estimated 60 to 100 MW. Facebook has a 28,000-square-metre facility under construction there that will use another 40 MW.
To put it another way, if the Internet was a country, it would be the planet’s fifth-biggest consumer of power, ahead of India and Germany, and that need is expected to nearly double by 2020. The Internet now consumes two to three per cent of the world’s electricity.
Now here is the kicker – all of those North Carolina data centers are powered by electricity generated from cheap and highly polluting coal power. Even Greenpeace likes to call the three facilities “North Carolina’s dirty data triangle.”
So after all the lectures from paper atheists on how bad the environmental impact is from print Yellow Pages directories, we need to use coal, one of the most polluting of all fossil fuels and the world’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the nirvana of a more efficient and greener world we are supposed to be getting from the advent of the Internet.
I hope the workers are driving to these data centers in a Chevy Volt. Then we’d have some polar bears really upset as their Greenland glaciers
One final thought – if Al Gore invented the Internet, how come he never blames himself in his rants about what we are doing to the environment??