Facebook Spokesman Defends Coal-Powered Data Center

Facebook Data CenterWhen Facebook’s VP of Technical Operations, Jonathon Heiliger, recently announced their first custom data center, did he expect a “green” backlash would follow? According to Treehugger, the Prineville, Oregon based server center is mostly powered on coal power. So are Facebook users too complacent to care, or are they simply unaware of the choice of energy?

The bottom line is that Google’s data center in Oregon was based on “cheap, green hydro power”, so why isn’t Facebook doing the same thing for their data center in Oregon? According to Search Data Center, it all boils down to cost, and avoiding tiered energy rates for new customers, thanks to the BPA (Bonneville Power Administration), “the federal agency that operates dams on the Columbia River and sells the power at cost to utilities.”

The announcement by Facebook has prompted Change.org to start a petition called “Stop Facebook from Switching to Dirty Coal”. Unfortunately, despite the 400 million-plus users of Facebook, only 2,753 signatures are on the petition (at the time of this writing). A Facebook group, Tell Facebook to use clean energy for its data center only has 144 members at the moment. However, these sorts of grassroots movements do have a tendency to grow over time.

Maybe someone at Facebook is paying attention because a spokesperson, Lee Weinstein, commented on an article by Data Center Knowledge (DCK). Today, DCK posted a followup story quoting Weinstein’s comment. Here is a portion of the quote:

…Our new data center will be receiving our power through PacifiCorp, which like most utilities has a diverse generation portfolio including hyrdo, geothermal, wind and coal… When it comes online in early 2011, the new Facebook data center will also be one of the most energy efficient in the world, featuring an innovative cooling system created for the unique climate characteristics in Prineville, Oregon.”

Weinstein goes on to say that the various systems that will be in use will reduce power usage by as much as 12%, and that the “facility will be built to LEED Gold standards.” Aside from that singular mention of coal, Weinstein does not defend coal use or give any indication of what percentage of the data center’s power will come from coal.

If you are concerned about Facebook’s use of coal, consider signing the Change.org petition or the Facebook group indicated above.

Coal image via CleanTechnica