There is appearing a snowball effect happening with the world's electricity demand for electronic data. In 2011, Google reported that it used 260MW of electric power. At the end of 2015 it has just announced a colossal bulk purchase of 781MW of renewable power for its data centers. That takes its total renewable usage contracts to 2GW of power. Now renewable power is only part of the mix of input to Google’s data centers, and the company says renewables make up around 37 percent of its current usage. Right now, before those agreements come in, then, Google must have about 1.2GW of renewable purchase agreements. If that’s 37 percent of the total, that total power use must be around 3.2GW. In other words, Google’s total power usage seems to have gone up 12-fold in the last four years. That is not far off doubling each year and is about 10% of the entire power consumption of the United Kingdom. Here are some shocking facts about the world's use of data and the pressures cloud computing is putting on our Planet.
In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to the annual output of 34 large (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants. Data center electricity consumption is projected to increase to roughly 140 billion kilowatt-hours annually by 2020, the equivalent annual output of 50 power plants, costing American businesses $13 billion annually in electricity bills and emitting nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year. U.S. data centers are using more electricity than they need. It takes 34 power plants, each capable of generating 500 megawatts of electricity, to power all the data centers in operation today. By 2020, the nation will need another 17 similarly sized power plants to meet projected data center energy demands as economic activity becomes increasingly digital.
Charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year!