Facebook attracted a fair amount of positive attention when it unveiled plans in January to build its first custom data center in Prineville, Ore., that incorporated a number of Green features.

But now the social networking giant is attracting attention for exactly the opposite reason. The company has come under fire from an environmental Web site called Change.org as well as from Greenpeace as a result of its choice of power providers.

Facebook will be obtaining its electricity from PacifiCorp., which generates some of its power from coal. A blog on the Change.org Web site charges: “Yes, every time you update your Facebook status a baby polar bear dies.”

The blog admits that statement is exaggerated, but goes on to argue that Google and Microsoft have built data centers in the state that are being powered by hydro-generated electricity, so why not Facebook? Environmental activist group Greenpeace also put up a blog questioning Facebook’s choice of power providers.

Facebook responded to the criticism by saying that the company “did not choose coal” rather it chose to locate its data center in a region with a climate that was optimal for its data center. “In selecting Oregon, we chose a region that offers a uniquely dry and temperate climate,” spokeswoman Kathleen Loughlin said in an email reply to Data Center Exchange. “This climate enables us to design what we believe to be one of, if not the most, energy efficient data centers in the world.”

Loughlin went on to note that the new facility incorporates the latest innovations in energy efficiency and cooling technologies. Some of the features include an evaporative cooling system, the use of natural cool air from the outside, reuse of server heat in cooler weather, and a new proprietary uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology that reduces power usage.

Still, the Facebook example shows environmental groups are now judging companies not only on what they put inside their data centers, but also on where the electricity comes from on the outside.

The PacifiCorp Web site notes the utility owns 47 hydropower facilities in Washington, Idaho, Utah and Montana, with a total generating capacity of 1,074 megawatts.

 

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