Report: Data centers waste most energy consumed

A recent analysis of energy demand and consumption in the web industries found massive amounts of waste, resulting in substantial amounts of pollution.

The New York Times commissioned the report from research firm McKinsey & Company, analyzing the energy usage trends of data centers ranging from Google to the pharmaceutical industry.

The report ultimately found that companies wasted the majority of the energy used to power their servers. Only between 6 and 12 percent of energy consumed went to power actual computation, with the remainder simply used to keep servers active enough to respond to surges in demand.

"It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems," Peter Gross, a data center engineer, told the Times. "A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town."

This massive power demand draws significantly from coal-fired power plants, as well as on-site diesel generators, resulting in substantial carbon emissions and regularly landing these companies on pollution watch lists.

The analysis mirrors the results of a report from Greenpeace earlier this year that highlighted Apple's reliance on coal-fired power plants for its data centers.

PennEnergy's Research area provides a policy handbook for energy efficiency in North America.

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