Intelligent Energy

Facebook's data center expansion continues

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Facebook newest (and yet to be built) data center won't bring any additional jobs. However, it could be a test ground for clean energy.

Facebook has filed plans to build a third data center at its Prineville, Oregon facility, a move that highlights the social network company's rapid expansion.

The 62,000-square-foot facility will be built next to Facebook's two much larger data centers, according to various local media reports. The new data center won't bring any additional jobs. However, it could be a test ground for clean energy.

Earlier this month, Facebook disclosed its carbon footprint for the first time and set a goal to acquire at least 25 percent of its energy for data centers from clean, renewable sources by 2015. Facebook admitted the goal would be a "stretch." In the meantime, Facebook says it will include a renewable energy component at every new data center it builds to learn more about what such investments mean for the company.

Meaning, this third data center will have one or a combination of clean energy sources, that could include solar, wind or fuel cells.

Facebook's carbon footprint -- some 285,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2011 -- is five times smaller than Google. That gap could narrow as Facebook adds servers at a brisk pace. James Hamilton, Amazon's data center engineering guru, estimates Facebook's servers number more than 150,000, and are possibly even 180,000, representing as much as 500 percent growth since late 2009.

Facebook's energy use will increase beyond the 532 million kilowatts hours of electricity it consumed last year as it adds servers. It can, however, exert some control over its energy consumption through efficient data center design and the use of clean energy.

Photo: Facebook's battery cabinet from Open Compute Project

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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