IT sector gases equal to that of thousands of homes

Published on 6 May, 2007. By John Reynolds

IRELAND’s power-hungry telecoms and technology companies are indirectly belching out as much greenhouse gas as thousands of homes, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Hidden away in anonymous warehouses, internet giants Google and Yahoo both have huge data centres in Dublin. Hundreds of energy-guzzling computer servers inside form the backbone of their operations here and need huge cooling systems to prevent them from overheating.

Software firm Sage and mobile phone giant Vodafone also have data centres in the capital.

Even small ones use as much power as a thousand homes, but environmentalists have so far avoided singling out IT or telecoms companies for the kind of criticism given to other heavy polluters.

New research from analysts Gartner says the global IT industry accounts for two per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – the same as the global aviation industry. The estimate is based on the amount of power used by computers, telecoms systems and printers within the world’s offices, together with all government and commercial IT and telecom infrastructures worldwide. It doesn’t include consumer electronics other than mobile phones and computers.

A spokesman for Google Ireland confirmed that the company had a data centre in Ireland, but declined to give further details for security reasons. “Our vice president of engineering is currently looking at our global carbon footprint,” he added.

Google’s California headquarters has the largest corporate solar installation in the US, generating 30 per cent of its energy, enough to power more than 1,000 homes, while many IT companies there try to locate near hydro-electric power stations to cut down on pollution.

Smaller Irish data centres include one in Shannon serving Intel and several other IT companies. Internet company Hosting365 uses one of several west Dublin data centres. “It needs its own two-megawatt ESB substation. That’s enough to power about 2,000 homes and our electricity bills are in the region of €40,000 per month,” said managing director Stephen McCarron.

Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner, said IT organisations will face increasing pressure to become environmentally sustainable during the next five years. Few IT management teams have mapped out the impact of the business’ activities on the environment, he added.

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