As Larry Dignan, and a multitude of others, reported on yesterday, Greenpeace is up in arms over the potential that the growth in cloud computing and datacenters will lead to a big jump in greenhouse emissions. Given that I'm writing this on April 1st , I'll limit myself to pointing out the irony of groups that have long lobbied against the very concept of nuclear power, the side effects of the materials used in the production of solar cells, and the serious NIMBY-effect that huge wind turbines produce, screaming for IT to focus on the use of renewable resources as a primary power source.
So since there are plenty of things for the eco-conscious to complain about, I thought I would just toss a new one into the mix; generating power from your garbage.
This isn't a new technology; in fact there are 60-magawatt and 6-megawatt facilities that operate only a few miles from my home and have been in place since the late 90's. These facilities take landfill gas (primarily methane) and use it as the energy source for their power generation.
How much greener can we get? It's not like the 300 million plus people in the US are going to stop producing garbage anytime soon, so here's a method by which garbage can be safely contained and have the by-product of its decomposition utilized to replace other forms of power generation that have the potential to have a more deleterious impact on the environment.
Steel Orca, a start-up datacenter company, has realized the value of this type of power production and is making plans on using it as a component of their ultra-green datacenter plans. And since there are already approximately 100 locations in the US with landfill gas power plants, perhaps we've found the perfect site locations for the next generation of US datacenters. As long as there are people around, landfill gas will continue to be a renewable resource.
Now if we could just harness the power of the cow...