Targeting major tech companies including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft for use of coal derived power, Greenpeace has issued a new report entitled How Clean is Your Cloud?
Given the energy-intensive nature of maintaining the cloud, access to significant amounts of electricity is a key factor in decisions about where to build these data centers.
Since electricity plays a critical role in the cost structure of companies that use the cloud, there have been dramatic strides made in improving the energy efficiency.
However, despite significant improvements in efficiency, the growth in cloud computing far outstrips these energy savings, and coal is still the cheapest power source.
Not to mention the dirtiest.
The study covers 14 Internet giants, but singles out Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft as the biggest offenders. Apple derives the most data center power (55%) from coal.
Apple is building a 20-megawatt solar farm and 5-megawatt fuel cell facility at its new data center in Maiden, N.C., but Greenpeace downplays their significance.
Greenpeace takes Apple to task for its decision to locate its data center in North Carolina, which reportedly maintains one of the dirtiest power grids in the U.S.
While Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft take the brunt of Greenpeace's criticism, Yahoo and Google receive high marks for their policies prioritizing renewable energy.
Facebook also receives high marks for its recent commitment to renewable energy, including its latest data center in Sweden that is 100% renewable powered.