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Renewable energy powering the Internet

By Dr Anthony Horton

Few people would deny that the internet plays an increasingly significant part in our daily lives in many ways and contexts. Greenpeace has called on internet providers to lead the way with respect to renewable energy. Following feedback from Greenpeace supporters, over the past few years Apple and Facebook have committed to 100% renewable energy and in particular in solar and wind power. Apple’s relentless pursuit of its commitment to power its iCloud using 100% renewable energy has given it early mover advantage amongst the IT sector’s leading players. The largest privately owned solar farm at its North Carolina data centre, plans to power its soon to be Nevada data centre using solar and geothermal energy and purchasing wind power for its data centres in Oregon and California are testament to Apple’s efforts.

Since 2012, Facebook has made very big strides in terms of being one of the green internet leaders. Efforts to deliver wind energy investment in Iowa has helped to drive further investment, and Facebook is now also working with energy utilities to add further clean energy capacity. It is also investigating ways to scale renewable energy sufficiently to power its Oregon and North Carolina data centres.

Google is also displaying leadership with its deployment of renewable energy and a combination of procurement, investment and policy advocacy to green power supplies, even in regions where it doesn’t currently have data centres. It is progressing towards its 100% renewable power commitment and has clear principles for the expansion of both the company and its renewable supplies.

Through the acquisition of Tumblr and an expansion of its curated news and entertainment channels, Yahoo has expanded its online presence, and it has also been amongst the very best performers in terms of the percentage of green energy since Greenpeace began to evaluate internet companies. It has announced the purchase of 25MW of wind power from a community wind farm development in Kansas, and Yahoo is also powering its Nebraska data centre with renewable energy.

Digital Reality is the world’s largest “digital” landlord with 131 data centres, 75% of which are in the United States. It provides data centre properties for a number of companies that have 100% renewable energy commitments, including Facebook, Rackspace, Salesforce and Google, has adopted a sustainability policy and created a new program to facilitate the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs) for clients that sign a Digital Reality lease.


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In a number of previous blogs I have discussed how Governments are aggressively decarbonising and are realising significant benefits, both environmental and financial. Although the companies discussed in this blog are amongst the biggest and most recognisable in the world, it is not only companies of this magnitude that can benefit, just as sectors other than IT can benefit. I analyse trends with respect to climate change around the world (including the Political landscape and prevailing policy frameworks), distill the conversations and use the learnings to assist companies and industry associations with respect to obtaining and maintaining a position ahead of the curve and most importantly, ahead of their competition. I believe strongly that companies that act on renewable/clean energy opportunities despite the prevailing Political landscape should be rewarded for their leadership. Like other world-scale issues, climate change will demand leadership, and rather than shy away from it, companies and industry groups should embrace the many opportunities it presents.

If your company would like to see what is possible in terms of decarbonising or are an industry group who represents companies that want to embrace the opportunities that climate change is and will present, please don’t hesitate to contact me vis The Australian Independent Media Network.

Anthony Horton blogs on his own site;


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  1. Roscoe

    too bad solar panels are not a part of BASIX (BASIX or Building Sustainability Index is a scheme introduced by the government of New South Wales, Australia in 2004 to regulate the energy efficiency of residential buildings) If they were serious solar panels would be and just think what that would do for green energy if every new house had solar panels

  2. townsvilleblog

    The Queensland Labor government has committed to a 50% renewable energy target bu 2030, one would hope to see other progressive government follow this lead.

  3. townsvilleblog

    Roscoe, My wife and I are pensioners yet we paid off solar panel power over a four year period, if we can do it any Australian who does not rent can do it.

  4. Roscoe

    townsvilleblog, we have installed solar as well but just think how it would be if every new house had to have solar panels installed, the price would drop even further and so it would make it even more likely people with existing homes would also have them installed

  5. stephentardrew

    We are building and will have solar panels and solar power and hot water as well. There can be huge energy savings by making solar electric and solar hot water compulsory. Economy of scale would soon bring the price down and the consequent reduction in energy cost would flow through quickly. Too bloody easy if you ask me and a frightening prospect for coal producers and burners. Don’t die waiting for conservatives to move on energy efficiencies.

  6. stuff me

    Yes, every new house should have solar HWS and Solar to the grid, close down those stinking coal fired power stations.

  7. Anomander

    The NSW government still owns the power generators and is desperate to sell them off for as high a price as possible, even though the markets fully realise these are likely to become stranded assets within a decade, once commercial storage takes-off and micro-grids become the standard.

    Meanwhile the energy companies gouge consumers so they can increase their profits, which in turn deliver returns for the government. The governments legislate to maintain the status quo and subsidise their coal mining benefactors – blatant stupidity in the face of a world rapidly changing around them.

    Encouraging investment in renewables would generate thousands of jobs and support home-grown industries in installation, maintenance and innovation, plus helping the environment and climate change.

    Clearly our governments are run by idiots.

  8. JeffJL

    While solar hot water may seem like a good idea with solar panels look at a PV system and heat pump. Use the space the SHW system would have taken up for a couple of extra panels and get a controller for the heat pump so it only heats when you are feeding into the grid or in non-peak periods. You will find it is better for the environment as when a SHW system reaches temperature it no longer captures solar energy while the panels will continue to produce.

  9. Annie B

    Renewable energy is the ONLY way forward.

    That this current Government disregards, denigrates and down-grades it – – is reprehensible.

    Why ? …. Why would they do this ?

    Their arguments hold nothing, their denials are anti-establishment – and I say that because they are behaving like wanton youngsters ( teens if you like ) bent on a wrongful outrage at being advised how to behave – for their own good.

    We must keep on, keeping on at them, about this ridiculous stand they have taken.

    Very good article from Dr. Anthony Horton – thank you.

  10. greentreefrog

    We have had a solar hot water system since the late 1970’s (when this house was built), but we have just recently had solar panels installed for the power. I just can’t believe the attitude of the federal government, but then I guess there is no money to be made out of the sun, and thats what it is all about. Thanks for the great article.

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