image credit: Caveman 92223 (Flickr)
Different statistics show that worldwide Internet usage is still growing from 400 to 1000% a year. More use of the Internet means, among other things, more data centers to be built around the world to handle the ever growing traffic. The amount of energy needed to power all the data centers is staggering. Worldwide, the energy consumption of data center servers and related infrastructure equipment doubled between 2000 and 2005. In 2006, American data centers already consumed more power than American televisions.
Google, among others, has been criticized for the high amount of energy necessary to maintain its servers. Therefore the company has pledged to spend millions of dollars on investigating cheap, clean, renewable energy, and is making efforts to build its new server farms near clean energy facilities.
In northern Europe, the economy of Finland was once based almost
entirely on forestry, paper mills and other heavy industries. During
the severe economic depression in 1990-93, the country began to
radically change its economy. High-tech electronics now forms the major
part, 21.6%, of the economy, but three of the world’s largest forestry
companies are still based in Finland.
One of those companies, Stora Enso, decided to close its paper mill in
Hamina at the beginning of 2008, leading to the loss of
hundreds of jobs in the town of 20,000 people. The town was worried for
its future, but didn’t just sit and watch the old economy disappear
with nothing new to come. Three weeks ago, the town announced that
Google has bought the old paper mill to house servers for its new data
center. Google’s choice of location was influenced by the fact that
there’s a wind turbine factory and a 12 MW wind power park being built
close to the site. Google’s servers will therefore have easy access to clean
Google has similar plans in Belgium and Austria, and has covered the
rooftop of its Mountain View headquarters in the US with over 9,000
solar panels that produce 1.6 MW of electricity. Like in Hamina the
graveyard of the old economy has turned to be the birthplace of the
new, the same thing can happen globally.