Facebook's new datacenter will NOT be wind-powered

Facebook's new datacenter will NOT be wind-powered

Summary: Wind is not the best choice for direct datacenter power.

TOPICS: Data Centers

While there have been quite a few headlines in the last day about Facebook’s wind-powered datacenter, it is important to drill down a bit to get past the hyperbole.

There is no realistic way to directly power a datacenter with wind alone. In order to level out the power so that demand and availability meet, it would be necessary to take quite a few steps to store energy at the facility to smooth out the power provision curve.

On a smaller scale, facilities that rely 100 percent on wind or solar power generally use banks of batteries to provide a steady supply of power, with the wind turbine or solar panels keeping the batteries charged. While this can be a practical solution for a small building or home off of the power grid, it is unrealistic for a datacenter.

And Facebook’s new facility will not be dependent on wind power in any way.

Facebook representation of the planned wind farm's appearance


What Facebook has done for their new facility in Iowa is work with the local power utility to have them build a 138 MW wind farm nearby. Despite the proximity, the wind farm will not feed the datacenter; rather the datacenter will draw power from the same grid that the wind farm will feed into. Facebook’s goal is to power the datacenter with 100 percent renewable energy; the company will be making use of the EPA’s renewable energy certificates program, as they have apparently retained the REC rights to the wind farm project.

One REC is created for every 1000 kWh created by the renewable energy source. It is these certificates that Facebook will use to offset and measure the energy requirements of the new datacenter. RECs can only be used once and if they are sold, no longer count as green energy. They do provide a number of green attributes to their creators/users.



So even though there is a lot of smoke and mirrors to the entire green energy business, in this case Facebook is making the most realistic attempt possible to provide a renewable power infrastructure for their datacenters.

Topic: Data Centers

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  • What you need is a Toshiba 4S

    Completely sealed, no maintenance, happily churning out 30 MW of power for 30 years.
    • And the waste will be stored where?

      Until that question is answered to the satisfaction of the vast majority of Americans, nuclear power has no future in the United States. Yucca Mountain has too much local opposition to be viable (and not just from Sen. Reid) and the idea nuclear waste being transported by rail from all over the country, much of it crossing southern Utah where I live doesn't really make me feel warm and fuzzy.
      John L. Ries
      • New Gen Nuclear

        The newer generation of nuclear power, which the US developed many years ago, is nothing like the first generation that power most of the nuclear power plants, especially in the US. They are safe and the waste they produce can mostly be used/converted for medical applications, leaving very little left over that actually needs disposal.

        Of course, try convencing most americans of that.
        • Has to start somewhere

          Looks like you have a job if you want it.
          John L. Ries
    • Wind is just as dirty as nuclear...

      Maybe more so. Read http://www.masterresource.org/2012/10/20-bad-things-wind-3-reasons-why/ to start, especially item 18-e. The sheer amount of radioactive waste involved in creating magnets for current generation windmills is mind blowing, and then you still have all the other waste. This doesn't even touch on the rest of the manufacturing process to build the towers and blades, just the generators magnets.
      • Some valid points, not very accurate though

        First, waste from generator manufacturing is present in hydroelectric, nuclear, coal, ... they all use similar generators, solar is the one form I can remember not using an electric generator to produce electricity. But I doubt production of solar panels are any cleaner.
        If manufacturing is not being done right, let's not blame wind. Wearing clothes is not wrong because some are made by kids in poor conditions in Bangladesh.
        Wind is intermittent, we all know that 100% needs from wind are not reasonable, the point is to diversify clean sources - say 50% wind, 10% solar, 20% hydroelectric, and the rest gas, coal, ...
        Is lobbying just present for wind defenders?! I don't think so, nuclear lobbying is said to be among the strongest in may countries.

        Energy from the wind is being successful in many cases, it might not be perfect, but the article posted is clearly distorting the reality. I can find several similar ones about nuclear, solar, hydroelectric, ...
        Some food for thoughts - Chernobyl nullified any nuclear advantage for ex Soviet countries, Fukushima is said to made the same. Germany spent several times more money with solar for a fraction of energy produced compared to wind, Portugal is generating more than half of its energy from wind, lowering energy costs and it's not even a wealthy country, ...
      • No manufaturing is zero cost, but a given.

        Building a coal burning plant or wind turbines, there is still manufacturing pollutants in creating either one.

        The difference is, once completed, one produces power creating pollutants, the other doesn't.
  • Facebook should explore thermal

    To all their hot air to good use.
  • Park run on wind power

    It has already been tried to run a facility in Ireland, and it was a complete disaster, this article didnt even include the parasitic power that the turbines were using

    Rayzor martin
  • Using hyperbole to fight hyperbole

    As a wind industry employee, this sort of article is frustrating as hell. If you wanted to be accurate, you would have inserted the word "entirely" into your title, dropped the emphasis on the word not, inserted a comma after the word "wind" and followed it with a list of every generation technology on the grid as in "Facebook's new datacenter will not be entirely wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, coal or hydro powered". I'm guessing click-throughs were of slightly more concern than accuracy.

    Yes, there is a ton of hyperbole, smoke and mirrors in the wind industry. Let's not compose media that attempts to fight hyperbole with more hyperbole, and let's not write as though there is none in the tech industry.