Facebook Responds to Greenpeace Letter

Yesterday we noted the latest effort by the environmental group Greenpeace International to critique Facebook’s decision to build its new Oregon data center in an area where the local utility uses coal to generate the majority of its power.

Facebook’s Director of Policy Communications, Barry Schnitt, has responded in a comment on a post on the Greenpeace web site. Many of Schnitt’s comments restate previous commentary on the issue (as was also the case with yesterday’s letter from Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg). For the record, here’s an excerpt from Schnitt’s comment that speaks toi the central issue.  

“It’s true that the local utility for the region we chose, Pacific Power, has an energy mix that is weighted slightly more toward coal than the national average (58% vs. about 50%),” Schnitt writes. “However, the efficiency we are able to achieve because of the climate of the region minimizes our overall carbon footprint. Said differently, if we located the data center most other places, we would need mechanical chillers, use more energy, and be responsible for an overall larger environmental impact—even if that location was fueled by more renewable energy.

“In addition, we plan to have our data center in Prineville for a long time so when considering the sources of energy, we took a long term view,” Schnitt continued. “The state of Oregon has an aggressive plan for increasing their renewable energy mix. In fact, Pacific Power plans to increase their renewable energy mix in the coming years. Their most recent plan calls for having more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable resources by 2013. Thus, our data center is only going to get greener over time as these resources come on line and contribute to even greater proportions of the facility’s energy.”

Both Greenpeace and Facebook have argued their points at some length. Can the conversation on this important issue move beyond the current pattern of critique-and-response?

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Greenpeace has an issue with coal, not Facebook. Also the last time I checked Greenpeace was not in the saving the data centers on the endangered species list - I may have to check that again. I have little respect for any person or group who only discusses problems without providing solutions. Specifically solutions that they have researched and are realistic in nature vs. the unrealisitic puritanical views that get thrown out as 'solutions'. Facebook needs to say to Greenpeace 'Go throw rocks someplace else. We made our decisions based on the overall carbon footprint as it relates to OUR business, not Greenpeace's eco-theology.' In theory, maybe Greenpeace has a point, but in theory communism works too. Just my two cents...

  2. Facebook is not telling the whole story. Pacific Power offers a blend of all renewable energy for its customers that is available to both home owners and businesses. The plan is called Blue Sky and this would provide a 100% blend of renewable energy to Facebook if they chose to subscribe to this plan. The renewable blend does cost a little more if Facebook wants to pay for it. I know for a home owner Pacific Power is about 6 cents per Killowatt and Blue Sky adds 1.95 cents per Killowatt in a package that is sold in blocks. A business like Facebook could certainly negotiate with them for a highly discounted rate to get that price down as well. http://www.pacificpower.net/bus/bsre.html

  3. Mikey Smalton

    go barry!

  4. Mvdwynga

    I disagree with the comments of Mark Mac Auley. There is an issue with coal and Greenpace has a perfect rigth to disclose how green popular providers like Facebook, Google, Microsoft are. There are other options. A company can choose to feed its Data Centers completely with green power. They can also choose to reduce the ecological footprint of their data centers by striving to a minimal PUE and best in class technologies. My company's data center in Belgium (as well as the complete manufacturing plant is running on Green Power. The company also made a large investment in switching its central heating systems from fuel oil to natural gas. There are two major aspects in ecological choises to save the planet: reduce consumption and use the best available option.

  5. Mvdwynga: How large is your data center? And what would you estimate were the additional costs of your implementation?

  6. Mvdwynga

    I work for a 120.000 employee global company that has choosen for a Green appraoch. The data center is part of a campus that has a 20 MW electrical feed ( at least 10 MW electrical power in use).