Facebook posts unfriendly rise in carbon emissions

Facebook posts unfriendly rise in carbon emissions

Image courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook's greenhouse gas emissions were up a whopping 35 percent in 2012, as the social media giant further extended its global reach.

But help may be at hand. A study from Microsoft has shown that data center emissions could be slashed by as much as 99 percent, using electricity market analytics.

This research comes as a survey by Siemens, UBM Tech and Information Week Marketing Services finds that respondents are worried that some of their organizations' data centers will run out of power, cooling or space by the end of 2014.

However, because of budget issues, most respondents are not planning to invest in new data centers, but are planning on upgrading existing facilities.

Data centers consume 1-2 percent of electricity in the U.S., and their emissions are growing fast.

In 2012, Facebook was responsible for about 384,000 metric tons of CO2e, up from 275,000 in 2011, according to the company's annual report on carbon emissions and energy use. This includes GHGs from data centers, office space, employee commuting and air travel, data center construction and hardware transportation.

The company's total energy use from office space, data centers and other facilities also grew about 35 percent, from 523 million kWh in 2011 to 704 million kWh in 2012.

The company blames a growth in its infrastructure to accommodate more users: Its user base totals more than 1 billion, the company says. But it is responding -- planning to build a data center in windy Iowa, for example.

But there are other ways to address some of the ever-growing demands on data centers.

The research from Microsoft used electricity market analysis to help data centers coincide their highest energy-consuming computation with times of the greatest renewable energy generation. The analysis helps predict when electricity prices are lowest and when the highest point of renewable energy generation occur.

Moreover, because data centers are often networked across a number of locations, the intensive computation could be moved to areas of the grid where renewables were currently providing large amounts of capacity.

Grid operators could offer price incentives to move computation to these "good" times or locations, based on the preferences of the customer or data center operator, Microsoft says.

This would will help reduce the overall carbon footprint associated with cloud computing.

Meanwhile, Adobe, eBay, Facebook, HP, Salesforce.com and Symantec have joined with BSR to promote low-carbon power sourcing for data centers in the U.S. The Future of Internet Power grouping will also help Internet companies work more effectively with policymakers and utilities, BSR says.

Data center operators are investing in energy-efficient infrastructure and equipment to address this issue. But internet companies must also address the source of electricity, BSR adds.

This article originally appeared at Sustainable Business News.

Image courtesy of Facebook.