Greenpeace says Seattle's largest technology companies are using too much dirty energy to power its Internet services.
To get their message across, Greenpeace activists climbed the roof of Amazon's new headquarters in Seattle's South Lake Union Thursday morning to hang a giant cloud-shaped banner that read: "Amazon, Microsoft: How Clean is Your Cloud?"
Curious onlookers watched as the activists rappelled off the roof to secure the 800-foot sign on the side of the building.
"Microsoft and Amazon are leaders in cloud computing technology. They build large data centers...Those data centers are some of the leading electricity demand growth in the United States," said Casey Harrell, IT analyst with Greenpeace. "We want Microsoft and Amazon to follow the lead of Google, now Facebook, Yahoo, to power their cloud with renewable energy, not dirty energy like coal."
In a report released Tuesday, the environmental group rated how the nation's top technology companies power their data centers -- a key issue as the rush to move services to the Internet "cloud" will require more and more energy-hungry server farms.
Greenpeace gave Amazon.com Ds and Fs for failing to embrace green energy sources and not investing in efficiency. The report also faulted Amazon for its decision to place data centers in areas where renewable energy isn't readily available.
Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services unit is a key backbone of the Internet, providing storage and server capacity to some of the largest companies in the world. Greenpeace criticized the company for locating a large number of its cloud datacenters in Northern Virginia, "an area where the grid is particularly coal-heavy."
Microsoft has a better track record in investing in green energy, Greenpeace found, but the report faulted the company for the same reason -- expanding data centers in coal-reliant Virginia.
Coal is a primary source of carbon emissions, which drive climate change and ocean acidification.
According to Greenpeace's estimates, the combined electricity demand of data centers and telecommunication networks globally in 2007, if combined and considered a country, would have made it the fifth-largest energy user in the world.
Amazon.com's record on energy stands in contrast to the that of tech giants like Facebook, Google and Yahoo. The report said those companies are making renewable energy a key part of their strategies and make public information about their datacenters' energy use and planning.
Greenpeace criticized Microsoft for not using its significant lobbying influence in Washington, DC, to support renewable energy policies, such as government mandates that utilities obtain more of their power from green sources.
Microsoft, for its part, says it is committed to reducing the company's carbon footprint. It maintains a website where visitors can learn more about its energy strategy.