A greener Internet – renewable energy

As we work on play on our iPhones, surf web sites or perhaps even work on our own web sites, there’s not just the electricity consumption at our end, but on the service providers side as well.

With the Internet and related telecommunications playing such an important role in many of our lives now, the impact in relation to carbon emissions associated with electricity consumption of data centers and related infrastructure are considerable – and will only grow in the years ahead.

The servers we access in our online pursuits are often power hungry and get rather warm. A data center without air conditioning is one headed for meltdown, so aside from server electricity consumption, there is a considerable amount of energy used in keeping data centers at the right temperature.

In a recent Greenpeace report entitled “Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change”, the organization calculates that by 2020, data center operations combined with telecommunications related electricity consumption could be in the realm 622.6 billion kilowatt hours annually.

Greenpeace says Internet and telecommunication companies should be pushing for increased renewable energy to power their operations and is challenging the major players to lobby government on policies that support renewable sources like wind energy and solar power .

The organization says it’s not enough for owners of data centers to simply improve efficiency within their buildings as it often just maximizes output from the cheapest and dirtiest energy source available, such as coal.

What can we do as individuals to help in greening the Internet? We can lobby the online services we utilize to use green power by sending them email asking about how their power is sourced and mentioning that we would like to see them using clean, renewable energy. By showing these companies significant numbers of their users and customers are concerned, it may then help trigger more of them to take action sooner rather than later.

If you’re a web site owner, perhaps also contact your web host and let them know you would like them shift to green power. If they aren’t open to that suggestion and if you don’t want to move to a web host that does, there’s another option.

You may have noticed this site is powered by renewable energy. My web host doesn’t have solar panels on their roof, a wind turbine out in the parking lot, nor do they access green power from the grid (yet). What I do is to buy wind and solar “green tags” to offset the dirty power. I pay for the equivalent amount of wind and solar energy sourced electricity that powers my share of the server Green Living Tips is hosted on to be added to the mains grid.

Aside from getting online service providers and telecommunications companies to go green, we of course also need to continue to look at what we’re consuming at our own end. You can buy green electricity for your home, even just a small percentage for starters, or implementing a few simple green computing tips can help reduce your online related emissions impact.

Greenpeace’s full report entitled “Make IT: Green Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change” can be viewed here (PDF)