Environmental watchdog Greenpeace is putting the computing industry on notice that its efforts to create the infrastructure for cloud computing could result in a haze of coal-fired smog.

Greenpeace is using the run up to the launch of the iPad as an event to draw attention to the phenomenal growth in information and the data centers to store and deliver that information.

“The cloud is growing at a time when climate change and reducing emissions from energy use is of paramount concern,” Greenpeace stated in its report titled: Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change.

“For all of this content to be delivered to us in real time, virtual mountains of video, pictures and other data must be stored somewhere and be available for almost instantaneous access. That  ‘somewhere’ is data centers – massive storage facilities that consume incredible amounts of energy,” Greenpeace states.

Greenpeace isn’t exactly condemning cloud computing, but it is calling upon the industry to make smarter decisions about how they build their data centers and where the energy comes from to power those centers. It called out Facebook for deciding to commission a new data center in Oregon that will receive its power from PacificCorp, which generates a significant portion of its power from coal-fired plants.

On the flip side, it noted that some companies have decided to build their data centers in locations where they can take advantage of renewable energy. It pointed to Yahoo, which chose to build a data center near Buffalo, N.Y., and will receive its energy from hydroelectric power.

“Unless cloud data centers are strategically placed to utilize or be co-developed with renewable sources of electricity, the data center operators are stuck with the same problem everybody has, and having to accept the mix of clean and dirty energy sources that the electric utilities rely upon to feed the grid,” Greenpeace concludes.



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