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Summary:

Greenpeace says the iPad — and the cloud computing future it foretells — means bad news for the environment. But coal-powered data centers aren’t the whole story. We say it’s OK to want an iPad.

The iPad, one of the most anticipated consumer electronics devices since Apple’s own iPhone, goes on sale this weekend. Demand is brisk, reviews are generally positive, and it looks like Steve Jobs has another hit on his hands. But the positive reaction muted a little for greentech geeks this week when Greenpeace released its Make IT Green report (PDF).

As Katie noted earlier this week, the report, which singled out the iPad as a “harbinger” of a new generation of cloud-dependent web tablets and mobile devices, forecasts that the cloud will consume 1.96 trillion kWh of energy by 2020, three times the 622.6 billion kWh consumed in 2007 — and the majority of that energy will be sourced from coal-fired power plants.

The report threatens to dull cloud computing’s green sheen, but here are four reasons why you shouldn’t fear the iPad.

Apple’s (Green) Data Center: Officially, Apple hasn’t divulged the purpose behind its massive data center build in North Carolina, but the writing’s on the wall: the company is betting big on cloud services. Add to that the fact that green data center guru Olivier Sanche is on the company’s payroll as Director of Global Data Center Operations, and its likely that its a green data center that will serve up media (and apps, lots of them) to iPad users.

Data Center Renewable Energy on the Rise: Greenpeace rightfully calls on web giants to wield their clout and insist on renewable energy for their data centers (much like my colleague Derrick has in the past). Guess what? They already are.

Accelerated Dematerialization: According to the Cleantech Group, each one of Amazon’s e-readers, on average, delivers an estimated savings of 168 kg of CO2 per year. Strong iPad sales will help grow the e-book market (via its iBookstore), accelerate the dematerialization of dead tree books, and shift consumption to the cloud. Coal powered or not, that’s likely to deliver a net environmental benefit.

Read the full post (with four reasons!) at GigaOM Pro.

Image courtesy if Apple

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By Pedro Hernandez

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  1. The biggest reason: since when is an ipad a “cloud” device

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  2. Casey Harrell, Greenpeace International Friday, April 2, 2010

    Pedro, thanks for the attention to our report. Couple of quick comments:

    1. Our report is about growth of electricity usage via the Cloud — and the climate consequences if this electricity is continued to be powered by dirty energy such as coal. We have been very clear in telling people not to fear the iPad per se, and in fact have complemented the device (and Apple) on it’s removal of hazardous chemicals, like PVC and BFRs, from the device. (See: http://weblog.greenpeace.org/makingwaves/archives/2010/01/will_apples_ipad_run_on_coal_o.html)

    2. As echoed in your reference to Derrick’s piece (and Katie’s story earlier this week), all of us agree that in order to be truly green, Data Centers need to be more than efficiently run — their grid mix matters, and these IT companies need to be building demand for additional renewable power in our grid — through their power purchasing agreements and their lobby in statehouses and capitals in the US and around the world.

    It’s not an either/or in regards to dematerialization (or virtualization) — IT companies can — and should – be providing efficiencies via dematerialization, as well as employing their hardware, software and services to vastly enhance our grid so we can switch from fossil fuel use to renewables.

    1. Providing the usual rationales after the release of a “usual” threat piece offered in hope of pairing with interest in a topic that ignores Greenpeace – is predictable.

      Predictable, opportunist and grounded in the sophistry characteristic of Greenpeace pronouncements. Which is why, of the dozens of activist organizations I suggest to people wishing to get off their butts and affect humankind positively, enviro and otherwise – Greenpeace ain’t one of them.

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