Cloud computing relying on coal-fired generation

Cloud Computing A recent report released by environmental group Greenpeace highlighted that many of the country's largest internet companies, some of those responsible for the emerging shift toward cloud computing, are increasingly relying on coal-fired generation.

Cloud computing has been a growing field in the U.S., both for commercial use and for private consumption, requiring a dramatic increase in energy usage as more and more data centers spring up around the country.

The industry has traditionally been tied to Silicon Valley, the center of the initial digital revolution, where coal-fired power plants play a limited role in power generation. As the industry has grown, however, many companies have moved their data centers steadily eastward where they can be closer to ultimate end users and electricity prices are sometimes lower.

Although the percentage of power coming from coal-fired generation has steadily declined in the East Coast, it still accounts for a substantial proportion. It is important to note that beyond location, technology companies have only marginal control over the source of electricity powering their data centers, which is generally managed on a state level . 

The New York Times notes that many of the companies listed in the Greenpeace report have traditionally been careful to foster a green image, leading some to contest the report's findings. 

More information about the impact of cloud computing on the grid can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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