Did you know that the Internet uses more electricity than the auto industry?
When sending an email or uploading a photo to Instagram, we don’t think about how much energy is used. However, part of the United States’ energy is spent on powering server farms to keep us connected with all that data. Server farms can consist of thousands of computers, which are powered and cooled with vast amounts of energy. Companies like Google or Microsoft use these server farms to reach their extreme needs which, of course, a single computer cannot provide. This high usage explains the expensive financial and environmental cost we face. Data centers rely primarily on non-renewable energy such as nuclear and coal-power rather than renewable forms of energy like solar or wind sources to power cloud computing.
Not only does the Internet use non-renewable energy, but its growth means it will continue to use more than ever. Less than ten years ago there were no iPhones, no app store, moreover Facebook and YouTube were just beginning. The current development of servers, smartphones and the mobile market, requires faster processors, cheaper memory, more bandwidth and more importantly new renewable energy power sources.
With server farms consuming so much energy is there a way to operate them responsibly? In order to counteract the environmental impact and to reduce costs some companies invest in alternative energy. Recently the tech industry is talking about new ways to sustain data center power and how server utilization can be measured. Apple is one of these progressive companies and recently opened a data center in North Carolina. It claims that the giant server farm is entirely run by solar power.
Apple declares to be “the only company in the industry whose data centers are powered by 100% renewable energy.” By addressing the issue in public, Apple is positioning itself as a green company that is aware of climate change and is wanting to counteract greenhouse gas emissions by producing energy-efficient products. By promoting its environmental consciousness, Apple allows for more transparency, which in turn allows this portion of their corporate social responsibility to shine. Apple, as many other brands, will continue their pursuit of public trust since corporate social responsibility has become almost as crucial as the brand or product itself. Let’s hope they can do the same thing with their factories, worker rights and innovative battery technologies.
While Apple is taking great strides to rely on renewable energy, it is only one company. Sweden however is working on innovations that other countries will begin to adopt in an effort to become greener on all levels.
Sweden even wants its neighboring countries trash. The Scandinavian country is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to renewable energy. Less than one percent of Sweden’s household waste ends up in a rubbish dump due to Sweden’s innovative recycling program. Although successful, the program presents an interesting challenge. The Scandinavian nation of around 9.5 million inhabitants must import trash from neighboring countries to fuel its waste-to-energy program. That leads to the development of neighbors such as Norway, paying Sweden to take its garbage.
Contrary to Sweden’s highly progressive recycling habits, the US Environmental Protection Agency, reports that over half of the waste produced by America’s households ends up in landfills.
There is certainly something said about going “green”. Hopefully Sweden’s outstanding job of reducing its carbon footprint serves as an example for other nations in the world, that possess sufficient garbage to utilize and convert waste to renewable energy. The rise of the Internet is only one factor which should lets us reconsider how energy shall be generated. Another factor is the environmental concern. Therefore renewable energy is important to us not only for the environmental benefits, but because it will never run out.