Intelligent Energy

Facebook shares its carbon footprint

Facebook shares its carbon footprint

Posting in Energy

Facebook, following in the footsteps of Apple and search engine giant Google, has disclosed its carbon footprint and set a goal to use at least 25 percent clean energy to power its data centers by 2015.

Facebook, following in the footsteps of Apple and search engine giant Google, has disclosed its carbon footprint and set a goal to acquire at least 25 percent of its energy for data centers from clean, renewable sources by 2015.

The carbon footprint report provides details about the company's greenhouse gas emissions and energy mix for all of its offices and data centers, and outlines Facebook's clean energy commitments. The report also provides a glimpse at how small the company is, in terms of energy use and GHGs, compared to rival Google.

Last year, Facebook generated 285,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent and used 532 million kilowatt hours of energy. The vast majority of those emissions -- about 207,000 mt CO2e -- came from Facebook's data centers.

In comparison, Google emitted in 2010 a total of 1.46 million mt CO2e, some five times more than Facebook.

Facebook estimates the total annual carbon footprint for each active user is about 269 grams, the equivalent emissions generated from one medium latte or three large bananas or a couple of glasses of wine, the company said. Of course, with 950 million users, those numbers can add up quickly.

Facebook's energy mix last year was 23 percent renewable energy, 27 percent coal, 17 percent natural gas, 13 percent nuclear. About 20 percent remains uncategorized, which accounts for power purchased by utilities on the spot market and can include any of the sources listed.

The carbon footprint report marks Facebook's recent effort to improve transparency of its operations in response to heavy criticism from environmental watchdog Greenpeace. Facebook, Apple and Google all have been pressured by Greenpeace to use less coal to power its data centers and reveal more information about where it sources its energy.

Last year, Facebook agreed to collaborate with Greenpeace to promote renewable energy and ecnourage utilities to develop those resources as well as adopt a data center siting policy that give preference for access to a renewable energy supply.

Facebook set a goal to get at least 25 percent of its energy for data centers from clean energy by 2015, a target the company admitted would be "a stretch" and one it's still figuring out.

In the meantime, Facebook says it will include a renewable energy component to every new data center it builds to leave more about what such investments mean for the company. Facebook noted its small solar installation at its Prineville, Oregon data center as an example of future projects.

Graphic from Facebook

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure