Green Data Center in NC featuring Apple, Google, and Facebook

GigaOm's Katie Fehrenbacher has a detailed state of the green data center story in NC featuring Apple, Google, and Facebook.

The controversial world of clean power and data centers

Poles dot the dusty solar farm, which will eventually hold solar panels.

This article is the third in a four-part series that we’re publishing this week.

Over the past several years, a couple-hundred-mile area north of Charlotte, North Carolina, has emerged as a new hub for massive data centers that power the Internet, attracting industry heavyweights like Apple, Google and Facebook. North Carolina has been able win over those companies despite the fact it generates its power largely from dirty coal and nuclear, which runs counter to a general trend toward a desire for greener sources of energy.

The post is long, but a quick read.  Here is the main point that highlights Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook.

Grid-connected vs off-grid clean power

At this point, Apple seems to mostly stand alone in its desire to build such massive clean power plants next to a data center. The only other firm to announce that it will tackle something similar is eBay. Last month eBay announced that it would build an extension to one of its data centers in Utah that would run off 30 fuel cells, powered by biogas, and use the grid as backup power.

Google’s data center in Lenoir

Google has arguably been the most innovative and aggressive web business when it comes to clean power. But Google’s Demasi told me that Google has “a basic philosophy that renewable energy should be provided through the utility.”

Likewise Facebook’s VP of Site Operations Tom Furlong, told me: “The utility is the obvious location [for clean power]. It would be a lot easier if the utility came to the site with 20 percent renewables and said this is our mix.” Facebook’s sustainability guru Bill Weihl (formerly of Google) emphasizes that Facebook is still working out its strategy for clean power for data centers and he isn’t ruling out onsite clean-power generation. But Weihl also says he’s interested in one day possibly creating an industry trade group that could help bring together companies to influence utilities’ grid choices through the group purchasing of clean power.


Note that Greenpeace is planning an update tomorrow.

While questions still remain about how exactly Apple will meet its 100 percent clean power data centers goals (see Greenpeace report out tomorrow),  Apple is clearly acting as a pioneer.