Greenpeace, the world's largest environmental activist group, released a report on Friday detailing the increasing environmental risk caused by tech companies in the storing and transmitting of Americans' digital data. And the report, says, Apple is among the dirtiest tech companies of all. Titled, “How Dirty Is Your Data?,” the report looks at the amount of energy consumed at a handful of tech giants' data centers, the massive buildings which house the servers that store data.
If the Internet was a country, it would rank fifth in the world in terms of energy consumed. And among the nine tech giants ranked in the report, Apple's data storage procedures were given the lowest “Clean Energy Index” score. The score is calculated by determining how much of the energy consumed at these data centers is generated through clean energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Greenpeace did acknowledge that the report was compiled using somewhat limited public data. Greenpeace invited all the companies to submit data for the study beforehand and then submitted the scores to them for comment before publishing the results. Apple scored a 6.7% on the clean energy index, largely due to its recent launch of a massive data center in Maiden, North Carolina. According to the Greenpeace report, the faciltiy consumes as much energy as 80,000 U.S. homes, or nearly 250,000 European homes.
The energy grid in that part of North Carolina that powers the Maiden data center uses only about 5 percent clean energy, the report noted, with the remainder coming from dirtier power sources like coal and nuclear. Hewlett Packard, meanwhile, was the only other company of the nine looked at in the study to score lower than 10%, coming in at 9.9% thanks to several of its facilities that rely almost exclusively on coal and nuclear energy.
At the top end of the nine firms in the study was Yahoo, with a 55.9% clean energy index rating, and Google with a 36.4% score. Yahoo has historically chosen locations for its data centers that are near clean energy sources, Greenpeace says, and Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars investing in wind and solar projects and also buys power from companies that use sustainable means to generate it. “Their models (Yahoo and Google) should be employed and improved upon by other Internet companies,” Greenpeace stated in the report.
Ranked behind Yahoo and Google in the report were Amazon (26.8%), Microsoft (25%), Twitter (21%), Facebook (13.8%), and IBM (10.9%). While Facebook did not score the worst on the list, Greenpeace says it will continue to climb up the rankings if it continues on the same path. Facebook gets power at 53 percent of its facilities, the group said, from energy companies who use coal almost exclusively.