Maybe Facebook should have bought a Bloom Box to diffuse Greenpeace’s campaign against a coal powered data center

Thanks to Matt Stansberry’s reporting on SearchDataCenter, attention was drawn to Facebook’s Prineville Data Center being coal powered.

Tiered energy rates bring higher prices for new customers
By 2012, BPA will charge tiered rates for power. Customers that signed 20-year contracts in 2008 will pay tier-one (i.e., inexpensive) pricing for their current electricity demand. These customers use most of the power produced by the dams.

By 2012, Oregon's Bonneville Power Administration will charge tiered rates for power.

To meet new customer demand or increased demand from existing customers, BPA also purchases power from other sources. In 2012 this electricity will be classified as tier two, and it will be charged at a much higher rate than the BPA's current hydropower.

Which brings us back to Facebook: The company's new data center is being built in Prineville, Ore., a small town on Oregon's high desert. Pacific Power, a utility owned by PacifiCorp, will provide the electricity. While Pacific Power gets some hydropower from BPA, its primary power-generation fuel is coal, according to Jason Carr, the manager of the Prineville office of economic development for Central Oregon.

With the price of hydropower increasing in the Northwest, Facebook opted to bet on the incremental price increases associated with coal rather than face tier-two pricing from BPA.

The news has spread to Greenpeace and Huffington.

Greenpeace, Huffington Post join chorus critical of Facebook's Prineville data center

By Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian
February 21, 2010, 2:20PM
On Friday, Greenpeace started its own campaign against Facebook's Prineville data center, joining others who want the social networking company to find an alternative to PacifiCorp coal.
The Huffington Post took up the cause Friday night.
Data Center Knowledge has an updated response from Facebook:
It’s true that the local utility for the region we chose, Pacific Power, has an energy mix that is weighted slightly more toward coal than the national average. However, the efficiency we are able to achieve because of the climate of the region and the reduced energy usage that results minimizes our overall carbon footprint. Said differently, if we located the data center most other places, we would need mechanical chillers, use more energy, and be responsible for more overall carbon in the air—even if that location was fueled by more renewable energy.

There is even a Facebook site for this topic with over 6,700 users.


Maybe Facebook should have done as Google and eBay and bought a Bloom Box to demonstrate its interest in renewable energy.  Trouble is any moves now will be seen as damage control.


SJMercury discusses the unveiling at eBay on Weds.

Tech journalists have been summoned to the San Jose campus of eBay Wednesday for the official unveiling of the so-called "Bloom Box" at a high-powered event to include Bloom co-founder and CEO K.R. Sridhar, venture capitalist John Doerr, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and "a prominent California government official" widely believed to be Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

and Google is mentioned too.

Search engine giant Google was Bloom's first paying customer; a Bloom Box sits behind one of the buildings on the Mountain View campus and has been powering a large chunk of the building's energy needs since July 2008.

"We have a 400-kilowatt installation on Google's main campus that delivers clean and affordable power," said Google spokesman Jamie Yood. Over the first 18 months of the project, he said, the Bloom Box has functioned 98 percent of the time.

The Bloom Boxes are not at a data center site, but early investment in renewable energy solutions pays off in goodwill to show willingness to take risks.

We’ll see if the Greenpeace effort gains momentum or not, but it would have been harder for Greenpeace to attack Facebook if it could have made statements like Google and eBay.