Facebook turns on hydroelectric data center in Sweden

Facebook's latest and potentially greenest data center went live this week, boasting renewable energy supplies and an impressive energy efficiency rating.

Located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, in Luleå, Sweden the new data center is powered by locally generated hydroelectric energy and uses natural free cooling from the outside air rather than energy intensive air conditioning units.

Facebook said the hydropower plants were reliable enough to allow it to remove most of its backup capacity for the site.

In addition, the devices inside the data center are based on so-called "vanity-free" hardware designs -- they focus more on efficiency than aesthetic value, meaning they can cut out waste by eliminating the need for unnecessary pieces of metal and plastic.

"All this adds-up to a pretty impressive power usage efficiency (PUE) number," said Facebook on its website. "In early tests, Facebook's Luleå data center is averaging a PUE in the region of 1.07. As with our other data centers, we will soon be adding a real-time PUE monitor so everyone can see how we are performing on a minute-by-minute basis."

PUE stands for Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), a widely used industry metric that details the amount of energy used to power IT equipment in a data center, as opposed to provide cooling and other support functions.

The news was welcomed by Greenpeace, as a sign Facebook is committed to curbing the impact of its businesses, and 'unfriending coal'.

"Facebook, Google, and other major Internet cloud companies like Apple, Salesforce, and Rackspace are fast moving and fast growing, but they have heard from their customers that renewable energy is important to them, and have committed to grow in that direction," said Greenpeace senior IT analyst Gary Cook.

"These companies are building their data centers with clean energy in mind, which sends a clear signal to utilities and government officials that renewable energy is not only possible, but also smart business in the 21st century economy."