Hey Greenpeace; my cloud runs on your garbage!

Hey Greenpeace; my cloud runs on your garbage!

Summary: If you really want energy from a seemingly inexhaustable supply, how about taking out the trash?


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...

Topics: Storage, Data Centers, Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • You sure this isn't April Fool's?

    You realize, of course, that these folks will completely ignore your point that this approach traps the methane instead of letting it escape into the air. (Methane is a VERY POWERFUL greenhouse gas - much more so than CO2.) In effect, you are trading one CH4 molecule for one CO2 molecule and two H2O molecules.

    They will, however, complain that your solution will still add CO2 to the air.

    These folks will never be happy until we return to the early Nineteenth Century, before industrialization.

    Never mind that there were only a billion people in the world in 1824 - and children died like flies from what are today completely preventable diseases.
    M Wagner
    • Methane from waste

      I think most of the landfill material that is decomposing is biologic in origin--food, cotton, paper and such--and that burning the resulting methane is probably almost carbon neutral. I'm sure a little petrochemical derived material will decompose, but most of that will just lay there harmless for ages. Anyway, this process will eliminate the free methane and replace it with a carbon neutral CO2 as opposed to an extraneously added CO2. Did I miss something here? Comment please?
  • RE: Hey Greenpeace; my cloud runs on your garbage!

    The methane will escape from landfills, and it is a much stronger Greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Therefore it is better to burn it.
  • RE: Hey Greenpeace; my cloud runs on your garbage!

    Great!!! thanks for sharing this information to us! <a href="http://www.yuregininsesi.com">sesli sohbet</a> <a href="http://www.yuregininsesi.com">sesli chat</a>