Greenpeace: Facebook's Solar Use 'Encouraging'

Greenpeace International today commended Facebook for its use of on-site solar panels to supplement utility power at its new data center in Prineville, Oregon. The positive comments followed a year of critiques of Facebook over its power sourcing to support its huge new Oregon data center.

Facebook has built a large solar array next to its new data center in Prineville, Oregon.

Greenpeace International today commended Facebook for its use of on-site solar panels to supplement utility power at its new data center in Prineville, Oregon. The positive comments by Greenpeace followed a year of critiques of Facebook over its use of utility electricity generated by "dirty coal" to support its huge new Oregon data center.

"Facebook is to be commended for their innovation on the energy efficiency side, and hopefully this initial investment in renewable energy will quickly translate into a bigger commitment to power Facebook with clean energy and move away from coal and other dirty sources of electricity," said Daniel Kessler, communications manager for Greenpeace International, in an email.

Modest Power Output, But Symbolic Importance

The large solar array in Prineville makes Facebook one of only a handful of data centers in the world to install on-site solar power generation. The array can generate about 100 kilowatts of energy, with total expected production of 204,000 kilowatt hours a year. That's a just a fraction of the power required to run a major data center, and will primarily be used to support office areas rather than server rooms. But Facebook's solar installation seems to have changed the dialog with Greenpeace.

"Though this solar array may be quite small in the amount of electricity it can deliver relative to the amount required to power Facebook's new data center, we see this as another encouraging sign that Facebook is beginning to look at both sides of the clean energy equation, which requires both energy efficiency AND clean sources of electricity," said Kessler.

Efficiency AND Renewables

"This should include both "behind the meter" renewables as they started with the solar array in Prineville, combined with much larger bulk purchases of renewable electricity from local utilities and 3rd party renewable energy developers, much as Google has recently done in Iowa, and expect to see other companies follow suit in the near future," he added.

Facebook's Prinevlle facility gets its power from local utility PacificCorp., which generates a majority of its energy from coal. Wind, hydro and geothermal power currently make up about 21 percent of PacificCorp's power mix.

Greenpeace is expected to release a report later this week taking a broader look at the impact of cloud computing on the environment.

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