Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Facebook Refines Energy Reporting 

As Facebook extends its reach across the globe, the IT giant's carbon footprint is also expanding. Still, there's something to be said for transparency. 

As Facebook extends its reach across the globe, the IT giant's carbon footprint is also expanding. Still, there's something to be said for transparency.

Facebook reports that in 2012 it used a total of 704 million kilowatt hours worth of energy, almost 200 million more than the previous year. 678 million kWh came from the company's datacenters, the highest user being the East Coast Colocation Facility with 237 million kWh. The other 27 million came from office space and other facilities. Facebook claims that growth in its infrastructure to accommodate its more than 1 billion users is to blame for the upsurge in energy usage.

Of the energy used, only 19% came from clean and renewable sources. The rest came from coal (34%), nuclear energy (22%), natural gas (15%), or was uncategorized (10%). Facebook says it is aiming for 25 percent renewable by 2015 and expects the Lulea, Sweden, datacenter site to assist in meeting that goal.

The social media giant also published its total carbon footprint for the year 2012, which was verified by a qualified third party to ensure its accuracy. Calculated in metric tons, the majority of the carbon dioxide equivalent (includes greenhouse gases, CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs) came – no surprise – from their datacenters at 298,000 metric tons of CO2e. "Other business activity" followed at 73,000 MT, while "office space and other facilities" ate up another 13,000 MT. Facebook's total carbon footprint came out to 384,000 MT CO2e for the year.

It should be noted that since Facebook released its 2011 figures, the company found a more precise way of calculating its output data. It began using a contractual method rather than the more commonly used location-based method. Under the old style of reporting, Facebook's total datacenter carbon output for 2012 would be quite a bit lower: 272,000 MT versus 298,000 MT. Kudos to Facebook for selecting the method that "better reflects [their] actual operations, even if it sometimes paints a worse picture."

In keeping with its green energy commitment, Facebook has also developed and launched real-time public dashboards that track and share both energy and water efficiency. The solution has been implemented at the company's Prineville, Oregon, and Forest City, North Carolina, datacenters. Facebook says that it plans on adding new dashboards to datacenters as they come online.

Facebook engineers have also started writing software that integrates building management software with tools for monitoring server performance. This software can take into account information about the power consumption for an entire building as well as information on CPU storage and memory.

This will allow for Facebook engineers to spend less time figuring out how to rearrange equipment to improve performance and it'll also assist Facebook in squeezing the most efficiency out of the datacenters that they already have.

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