A few days ago, we wrote about big tech companies moving their data centers to nuclear friendly states and getting some grief for it for not being “green” enough. I take no credit for the following, but it’s nice not to be talking in a vacuum.
This a letter to the editor of the New York Times commenting on the same topic (same article actually):
“Report Faults Online Services Over Reliance on Coal and Nuclear Power” (Business Day, April 18) discusses a Greenpeace report suggesting that emissions-free nuclear power and coal constitute “dirty energy.”
It’s true that by opening up new data centers in states like North Carolina, Virginia and Illinois, major Internet companies are using more nuclear energy — and at affordable prices. What’s untrue and insinuated in both your article and the Greenpeace report is that this reliance on nuclear somehow sullies a company’s environmental reputation, when nuclear is in fact playing an important role keeping the cloud clean.
Nuclear energy accounts for 70 percent of the clean electricity produced in the United States, and together with renewables like solar and wind is a vital part of any clean energy portfolio. Companies that rely on 24/7 baseload power to meet their electricity needs are contributing to emission-reduction goals by including nuclear in their energy mix.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN
Princeton, N.J., April 19, 2012
Ms. Whitman is former governor of New Jersey, EPA Administrator, and currently co-chair of the Clean and Safe (CASE) Energy Coalition.
That Greenpeace report stirred up some interest in finding out how Greenpeace is doing with its own cloud - another way to say this is: Can Greenpeace avoid the world it lives in in order to claim the purity it demands of others. Answer: No, largely because such issues aren’t entirely in its control:
But Greenpeace also has a number of servers in a colocation center in northern Virginia. “They’re using whatever the grid mix is in Virginia,” said Cook, who added that the colo deal was arranged about five years ago. “At that point in time, there weren’t providers that met our requirements (for renewable energy). We’re in the process of reworking some of our IT infrastructure, and we’ll clean that up.”
Virginia’s mix: coal and nuclear, with some renewable energy, much the same as is being used by Google, Facebook and the rest. Cook is Gary Cook, a Climate Policy Advisor for the Greenpeace CoolIT Campaign. The line that interested me was “”at that point in time, there weren’t providers that met our requirements.” True, if you wanted to remain in a state with relatively light electricity charges – due to the presence, or course, of nuclear plants.
Credit due to Rich Tripp of Data Center Knowledge for a great article – do read the whole thing –but let’s give props to Gary Cook, too: he didn’t try to evade the fact that Greenpeace, much like the rest of us, has to deal with the world as it is rather than the world it’d prefer. Maybe Greenpeace can learn enough generosity to extend that view to the companies about which it writes reports.
It might happen. But:
Is Greenpeace holding Facebook to a higher standard than it applies to its own Internet operations? Cook says the data center industry’s largest power users have a higher obligation to use renewable energy to power their servers.
Neat argument. Okay for me, not for thee.
Christine Todd Whitman.