Let's move beyond greenwashing here. We'll be the first to admit that while many companies, including our own, may be extremely committed to energy efficiency, they also use it as a marketing tactic. There's a reason: it's a differentiator and a clear advantage to our services vs. the competition. This isn't us merely tooting our own horn or trying to play up our green practices. We're in it for the long haul. And I'm going to tell you why I think the technology industry as a whole should be leading the way to a greener future for everyone.
1) It saves money
An aunt and uncle of mine own a beautiful home they designed themselves, perched above a small town in the mountains of Colorado. It has heat absorbing walls, solar panels, and strategically placed windows to keep it warm in the summer and cool in the winter. It's so efficient, in fact, that they are selling energy back to the grid nearly every month.
For a decade or two, data centers have been making steps toward realizing similar goals. By designing data centers to be highly efficient, operators are saving on overhead and reducing the amount of energy used, not just lowering their carbon emissions. This in turn saves customers on pricing. In the end, everyone wins, including the few power companies who are making moves towards renewable sources.
2) It increases reliability
That's right. Many naysayers claim renewable energy isn't reliable. The sun doesn't shine every day. The wind doesn't blow all the time. The truth is, the energy grid, particularly in the United States, isn't very reliable. Even a squirrel can cause large scale blackouts!
If a provider is lucky enough to be able to directly connect to a local renewable energy source, they have more than just generators to fall back on. As battery technology improves, large stores of energy could even replace diesel generators all together. Google, Apple and Facebook aren't hooking up to renewables only for the PR boost: they're hedging their bets against a potentially unstable future of power.
3) It grows local businesses
The easiest places to find renewable energy sources tend to be local wind farms, geothermal plants, hydroelectric dams, or solar panels that require local experts for installation and service. While these options may have deals with or be operated by large multistate power companies, it tends to be smaller startups running them. By investing in renewable energy, IT goes beyond offsetting their own power use and actually helps grow the local economy while supporting a cleaner energy source.
4) It sets a great example
It's obvious by now that information technology is more than just big business. It permeates every single aspect of society. As Google sets up Wifi balloons in remote regions and cell phones propagate even the least-connected countries, data centers will continue to spring up across the globe. After the Greenpeace spotlight, the big players are starting to make headlines with their occasionally outlandish, extremely energy efficient facilities. They're building in the Arctic Circle, they're installing massive solar fields, they're harvesting energy from the center of the Earth.
Of course this helps them save on operating costs, as mentioned above, and it can help keep service running even when the power company experiences a blackout. It makes the companies look good, too, because the data center industry is sucking down 2-3% of energy globally already, as referenced in a much discussed New York Times article.
Going green in the data center goes deeper than merely looking good. It shows the world that businesses can be more environmentally responsible while still making billions of dollars. It demonstrates that innovation can be supported and waste reduced at the same time. It is proof that renewable energy and efficient business practices are more than a fringe benefit, they're an essential part of future-proofing your business.
Posted By: Joe Kozlowicz