The cloud has become a standard way of operating for large and small organizations, and for most of them, it is a question of “when” to move to the cloud rather than “if”. According to this Forbes article, 42% of IT decision makers are planning to increase spending on cloud computing in 2015, and by 2018 public cloud spending will more than double to $127.5 billion. In such a scenario of worldwide adoption, it becomes very important to consider the energy sources that providers may be using to power the cloud.
In a recent development, Amazon that is one of the giants among cloud providers, has announced that it would support the construction and operation of a solar farm in Virginia. The farm will produce 80 megawatts of energy, which can be equated to the power needed for 15,000 US homes every year. The location of the solar farm is said to be due to Amazon’s data centers being in the same area. Amazon would have a power purchase agreement with Community Energy to buy the power generated by the farm.
Why solar energy?
Solar energy is one of most popular types of renewable energy for homes and businesses alike. Other than the obvious benefits of it being better for the environment, it might also prove to be a more dependable source if the location is well thought out. In the long term, solar energy would definitely be a more cost-effective option compared to standard sources of power. A dual arrangement with solar energy being the primary source and standard power serving as a back-up could also be an intelligent choice.
Amazon pledges to move to 100% renewable energy
It has been noted that Amazon has taken a longer time to invest or commit to renewable sources of energy as compared to competitors like Apple and Facebook. The announcement could also be a result of a major push by its customers with a lot of them asking the organization to show transparency about its energy sources and consumption. The company had, in November 2014, made a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy for its global infrastructure footprint. Its immediate goal is to increase renewable energy use to 40% by the end of 2016.
Amazon also offers options for 100% carbon-neutral infrastructure to customers, and has been doing so since 2011.
Power efficiency as important as renewable energy?
Amazon has always maintained that the very premise of the cloud infrastructure makes for lower resource utilization and therefore an improved level of energy efficiency. Planning the usage of servers so as to minimize power consumption must be the first step towards energy conservation. AWS feels that “the greenest power is that which is not consumed”. It is also involved in testing efficient energy sources that could support the demands of a data center, which is an essential need until the time 100% renewable energy could be attained.
Here are some interesting statistics about usage of energy by the cloud as provided by the AWS page on sustainable energy:
- A typical non-cloud data center is considered to be 29% less energy efficient compared to a cloud-based one.
- The usage of fewer and more efficient servers by the cloud might mean upto 84% reduction in the total power required.
- Moving to a cloud provider like AWS could result in an 88% reduction in carbon emissions for customers.
Since a cloud-based infrastructure is not limited by location, it makes sense for data centers based on renewable energy to be based where solar and wind energy could be harnessed more easily. Other than the recent news about the solar farm, Amazon has also been working on other renewable power sources, including a Wind Farm in Indiana.
Even with the argument for a cloud set-up making more efficient use of energy, it is important that the use of non-renewable sources is reduced and finally eliminated. Amazon definitely seems to be committed to keep to this cause, and we hope that more large and small players in the arena of cloud infrastructure also take similar pledges and decisions to move to renewable energy sources.
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