In the last few weeks an idea has been making the rounds that, when you count all of the required networks and cloud services, your iPhone uses more electricity than your refrigerator. This idea was first presented in a publication called “The Cloud Begins with Coal” by Mark Mills, and was quickly followed up in with further analysis (and a different version of the calculation) by the Breakthrough Institute, “Bracing for the Cloud”.
Knowing my longstanding interest in computing and sustainability, a number of people sent me the NYT article, Power, Pollution and the Internet on the inefficiencies of data centers (or as the link to the article says, “data-centers-waste-vast-amounts-of-energy-belying-industry-image.html”). Here are my thoughts on some of the points raised by the article, and a closing thought on the messenger itself. Do data centers use lots of energy? Absolutely. The number in the article says that data centers sustain around 30 billion watts, which I won’t argue with.
There’s been a lot of press about Apple’s major solar and fuel cell installation at its new data center in Malden, North Carolina. So far I haven’t seen direct statements from Apple staff - all of the data seems to be based on an Apple document titled “Facilities Report: 2012 Environmental Update”. Here are some of my thoughts on the project: I’m excited about this project and Apple’s leadership. The main thing clean energy companies need is customers, and this provides a boost to a couple of them.