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|Articles - June 2010|
|Thursday, May 27, 2010|
Page 2 of 3
Facebook is the fourth tech company to site a large proprietary data center in Oregon. Google launched a data center the size of two football fields in The Dalles in 2006. Amazon started building a comparably huge data center in Boardman in 2008, but it’s on hold due to the recession. And Intel, which makes chips for the servers that fill data centers, has a large data center in Hillsboro.
Google and Intel’s data centers, and Amazon’s planned data center, guzzle electricity as well, but they rely more heavily on carbon-free hydropower. The Google data center in The Dalles is estimated to use 103 megawatts an hour at peak, equivalent to the needs of more than 73,000 homes.
Hydropower has its own costs, but Greenpeace singled out Facebook because the utility that serves Prineville, Pacific Power, gets 58% of its energy from coal, a major contributor to climate change.
But coal is often the most affordable option for a data center that needs power 24 hours a day. Hydropower has become more costly now that the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power from the Columbia River, has closed the loophole that let data centers get it on the cheap. The customer-owned utilities along the Columbia that receive federally subsidized power pass on their discounts to Google and other companies, but under new rules recently negotiated by BPA, the data centers of the future will have to buy their power at market rates.
And there will be more data centers. Thanks to the growth of the Internet and the popularity of cloud computing, these facilities are popping up all over the nation. That new visibility is subjecting them to public scrutiny for the first time. The Environmental Protection Agency adopted a standard metric for data center efficiency in April and will roll out Energy Star labels for data centers this month that would require third-party verification.
The EPA’s voluntary standards imply the possibility of mandatory standards, which coupled with the possibility of carbon pricing add up to strong incentives to improve efficiency. Regulation could mean serious costs for owners of power-hungry data centers. Giants such as Google have massive carbon footprints from gobbling electricity. Exactly how massive is unknown, but Intel, for example, has 100,000 servers worldwide. It’s estimated that Google has more than 1 million.
He’s describing Facebook’s new Prineville data center, and so far, it sounds like your average server farm. Data centers usually have generators, cooling towers or chillers, possibly a power substation and miles of wiring under the floor. These climate-controlled warehouses hold racks of servers that take care of all the data and software on the Internet. They store e-books, Facebook profiles and websites, and perform all the work for search engines such as Google and services such as TurboTax.
But none of the other large data center owners will say how many servers they have or exactly how much power or water they use or plan to use. “We don’t comment about the power consumption on any of our facilities,” a spokesman for Google said woodenly, before laughing and adding, “Sorry!” Amazon responded to an official interview request by email within 60 seconds with a “No thank you.”
One reason for the secrecy may be that the answers would alarm us. But the commonly stated reason, protecting trade secrets, is probably also true. Companies see arsenals of servers as a competitive advantage. But designing a new generation of efficient data centers would be an even greater advantage. The trend even has its own buzzword: “data center greening,” and even though Greenpeace is not impressed, that’s what Facebook is doing in Prineville.
Much of the electricity used in data centers goes toward cooling. Without cooling, a room of servers will go from 70 degrees to 120 degrees in two minutes. Facebook’s data center, which is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, won’t use the energy-sucking chillers that circulate water to cool servers in a standard data center. Instead, Facebook plans to use outside air to keep things cool. This “free cooling” system works best in arid climates, part of what tipped the scales in favor of Prineville. Patchett estimates it will cut energy use by 20% to 30%.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015
BY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
A conversation with attorney Erich Merrill about the latest way to raise money from large groups of people.
Friday, January 23, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
Carbon pricing is gaining momentum in Oregon, sparking concern for energy-intensive businesses — but also opportunity to expand a homespun green economy.
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.
Friday, January 23, 2015
BY DAN COOK | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
A real-estate developer and a Lithia Motors executive aim to revamp the city's forlorn downtown.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Consumers love the savings they get from low oil prices, but how has business been affected?
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Is your business ready to join us in the call for action? This opening panel includes Oregon businesses who will discuss why they signed the Oregon Climate Declaration, the investments they are making to reduce carbon emissions, and how their actions are affecting their companies.
Get ready for two days of special events produced with the EPA, Portland Timbers and ISOS before and after the GoGreen Conference on October 16.
How sports tourism is driving economic growth and making cities across Oregon a better place to live.
Port of Morrow's business-ready attitude has a surprising global impact.
Through its support of the arts, the Cultural Trust is strengthening the business community.
The official launch will be Jan. 14.
In a switch on the traditional trade show, representatives from UO departments and local and state agencies will host tables to connect with businesses and vendors. The fourth Reverse Vendor Fair will take place Wednesday, Feb. 25, in Eugene.
Featuring Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba along with high-profile Oregon Ag attorney Tim Bernasek whose recent matters include representing the Oregon wheat farmer who discovered unreleased “Roundup Ready” resistant GMO wheat growing in his fields.