If Brazil can build a critic proof dam, why can't the same ideas be applied to a data center?

Dams are notorious for their environmental impact.  James Cameron has protested one Brazilian dam.

Brazil dam project prompts animated response from director Cameron

September 01, 2010|By Matthew Knight for CNN

Movie director, James Cameron has teamed up with environmental campaigners in an effort to help Brazilian tribes' epic fight against the construction of a controversial dam in northern Brazil.

But, another Brazilian dam has a strategy to be free of critics or at least minimize the social and environmental impact. WSJ reports on this effort.

Brazil Engineers a Critic-Proof Dam



Ana Ottoni

The Santo Antonio dam rises in the Amazon, one of 24 planned there.

PORTO VELHO, Brazil—Tethered to scaffolding on concrete towers by a clay-colored river, workers clad head to toe for protection from sun and mosquitoes are building the first large dam in the Amazon in decades.

Greenpeace has focused its sights on Facebook's data center.  The Brazilian company has spent $600 million to reduce the impact of the dam.

Yet few people have heard of the $8 billion Santo Antonio project, even in Brazil—which is just how the builders planned it. They designed it to avoid the controversies that have delayed other dam projects for years and multiplied their costs.

The builders spent some $600 million to head off trouble with regulators, environmental groups and Indian tribes before it arose. They trained thousands of rain-forest residents to provide a local labor pool and built modern houses for families who will be displaced. They created a high-tech fish ladder so species like giant catfish can get around the dam—and to meet one local demand, they built an alligator slaughterhouse.

For those who doubt a green fits in a data center.  Consider these words.

The dam's greener hue isn't because of any special environmental ardor on the part of the builders. It reflects a calculation about the unpredictable extra costs that environmental suits, Indian protests and political backlashes can cause.

Note the dam staff member who comes from World Wildlife Fund.

"In the end, this is business," said Gabriel Azevedo, a former World Bank and World Wildlife Fund executive who serves as sustainability director at the energy division of the dam's lead construction company, Odebrecht SA. Odebrecht is a closely held Brazilian concern whose other projects include boring a 12-mile tunnel through the Andes to carry Amazon water to Peru. Its co-builder is another private Brazilian company, Andrade Gutierrez SA.

Is this the future of data centers?  Well maybe not all of you.  As Greenpeace stays focused on Facebook as the target, others sigh in relief.