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Summary:

Wind power is an increasingly realistic option for the next-generation of data centers built by Internet giants that want to move away from fossil fuel power.

Inside Facebook's Lulea data center, the servers are Open Compute but the chips are not.
photo: Facebook

Internet giants continue to increase their commitments to using clean power to run their data centers. On Wednesday Facebook will announce that when its fourth data center is built in Iowa, and starts serving traffic in 2015, it will be entirely run off the power of a nearby wind farm.

Local utility MidAmerican Energy will build, own and operate the 138 MW wind farm, which will be built in 2014 in Wellsburg, Iowa. The data center, which will be built close by in Altoona, Iowa, will use a similar energy efficient design as Facebook’s other data centers based on its Open Compute architecture in Oregon, North Carolina and Sweden.

Facebook's data center in Prineville, Ore.

Facebook’s data center in Prineville, Ore.

Facebook said one of the reasons it chose Iowa as a good location for the data center is because of the ability to use local clean power in the state. Iowa has strong wind resources, and around a quarter of the power in the state comes from wind. Using clean power as a determining factor for siting the location of a data center is an new and just emerging trend.

Facebook has a goal to have a quarter of its global data center energy consumption come from clean power by 2015. Google, Apple, Microsoft, eBay and many others are experimenting with various ways to add in clean power, too.

windturbine

Wind is an important clean power technology because it’s one of the only clean energy sources that can be competitive with coal and natural gas power at a low enough price, and at a large enough scale. Huge wind turbines manufactured by companies like GE and Vestas are making wind farms economical in the right areas of the world. Other technologies like solar panels and fuel cells are becoming important, too.

I’ll be leading a discussion about clean power and internet infrastructure on Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco in partnership with Greenpeace, and with speakers from Facebook, Google, Box and Rackspace. Facebook’s Bill Weihl will be there to talk about what Facebook is doing. Come hang out with us and learn about best practices and lessons learned.

Also, for a backgrounder, check out my series on clean power and data centers last year:

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  1. FULLY powered by wind is very misleading. Wind is not continuous. Some days there may be close to no wind at all in Iowa. So what are they using when there is no wind is probably the most interesting and missing part of this article…

  2. so your facebook account will go offline when the wind doesnt blow. you idiots on facebook will just have to go without for periods of time. Welcome to the wonderful world of renewables.

    1. The batteries can buffer the energy so the power will be stable.

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