Facebook Unfriends Coal, Likes Iowa Wind
April 25, 2013
Despite the well funded and well organized campaign among the dittohead windbagger set to hold the 21st century at bay, pesky renewable energy technology continues to prove attractive to people who, like, get technology.
After 18 months of courtship and competition, Iowa officials announced Tuesday that Facebook has selected a Des Moines suburb as the site for its next data center.
The social media giant plans to break ground this summer in Altoona, Iowa, on a $300 million data center that could be the first of three facilities there.
Much of the news coverage has focused on the $18 million in tax credits awarded by the state, but Facebook had another reason to “like” Iowa: wind power.
Committed to green power
Technology companies that operate large data centers have been under increasing pressure in recent years to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints.
As part of a December 2011 truce with Greenpeace, Facebook adopted a policy that gives preference to building data center in places with access to clean and renewable energy.
A company spokesperson confirmed in an email to Midwest Energy News that access to wind power was a factor in its decision to locate in Iowa.
“We are committed to powering more of our operations with renewables — we’ve set a goal of reaching 25% renewables in our mix by 2015 — and are exploring opportunities in all of the regions we operate data centers,” Alex Hollander wrote.
The availability of wind power is one of the reasons Iowa is now neck-and-neck with the state of Washington as a destination for large data centers, said John Boyd Jr., a New Jersey consultant who helps companies site data centers.
“Our clients are coveting green power,” Boyd said, and the demand is being driven by marketing. “There’s public relations value above and beyond the economic value of wind energy.”
Still, he doesn’t think it’s a leading criteria for siting decisions, he said. More important factors include tax incentives, real estate costs, and electricity prices.
Nebraska, a state with much less wind generation but also low electricity rates, was considered Iowa’s chief competitor for the site.
In Facebook’s announcement, it said the Iowa data center “will be among the most advanced and energy efficient facilities of its kind.” It also notes Iowa’s “abundance of wind-generated power.”
The Pacific Northwest has long been a destination for data centers because of generous tax incentives and cheap hydroelectric power. In Iowa, incentives and low electricity prices are also drivers.
Iowa’s average electricity rate is about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour below the national average, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.