Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Apr. 22nd
Tech coverage likes to talk a lot about “the cloud” as if it were a magical object, tucked away in a different universe. NPR’s Steve Henn dug into the very real environmental impact of the cloud’s countless server farms in a piece for All Things Considered:
Researchers at Greenpeace estimate that if the cloud were a country it would be one of the biggest consumers of electricity on the planet.
“It would rank around sixth in the world,” says Gary Cook at Greenpeace. “That is right after Russia and right before Germany.”
Other estimates are smaller, but the figures are still staggering. The New York Times estimated that cloud computing consumed 30 billion watts of power a year in 2012. That is as much power as produced by 30 nuclear power plants.
Henn notes that while Greenpeace has successfully lobbied companies like Apple and Facebook to clean up their servers, not all cloud computing services are thinking green. Henn doesn’t name names, but Greenpeace does. They give Amazon Web Services an three Fs (transparency, renewables, and advocacy) and a D (efficiency) on a four point report card. While Amazon is just one company, its servers are used for a who’s who of Internet services: Netflix, imgur, Tumblr, Airbnb, Spotify, Dropbox, Vine, Yelp, Pinterest, and Soundcloud just to name a few.
Nothing beats “free” however, so who cares? /sarcasm
Image: MidAmerican Energy