Top 11 Stories of 2013 on Powering the Internet With Renewables
By David Pomerantz
2013 has been a whirlwind of exciting developments for the growing idea that the Internet should be powered with clean energy, and it couldn’t happen at a better time.
As access spreads around the world and people watch more streaming videos and share more photos, the Internet has the potential to become either a big cause of global warming pollution, or a driver of the clean energy transition we need, depending on what the companies behind it decide to do.
Here are our top 11 stories about the Green Internet in 2013:
Apple released an environmental report in March showing that it had made real progress in its effort to power the iCloud with renewable energy, and not coal. Apple had already committed to 100 percent renewable energy for its data centers, but this report disclosed how Apple plans to do it, allowing customers to have faith that Apple is meeting its ambitions with real action.
Salesforce became the latest company to commit to powering its cloud with 100 percent clean energy in March. The company’s rapid growth means that it will need more data centers soon to store its clients’ data, which is why it’s so important that Salesforce has committed to grow using renewable energy.
Apple announced in July it would be building a solar array to power its data center near Reno, NV. Apple is using an advanced technology that includes mirrors to concentrate sunlight, and the deal was also the first that took advantage of utility NV Energy’s “Green Rate tariff” in Nevada, which allows any customer to buy explicitly renewable energy.
Rackspace, the Texas-based tech company who offers data services to a range of businesses, committed to a goal of powering its data centers with 100 percent clean energy in February. The company’s sustainability director described why they’ve set the ambitious goal at a Greenpeace forum in November, saying: “Our customers simply expect green energy.”
The competition among Internet companies to power their operations with clean energy gained a new entrant in November. Microsoft announced that it would take a page from the book of its chief competitor, Google, when it announced that it will purchase wind energy in Texas to power its data center there, marking its first ever large-scale purchase of renewable energy.
Box became the sixth and latest company to join the growing club of global technology firms who have committed to powering their cloud computing operations with 100 percent renewable energy. Box houses its customers’ data in rented co-location facilities, and its new policy shows that all cloud computing companies can make the smart decision of moving toward renewable energy, whether they own their own data centers or not.
If you own an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, Apple made an announcement in November that should make you feel pretty great: at least some part of your Apple products will soon be built using clean, renewable solar and geothermal energy. Apple announced that it will start building high-tech glass for its products in Arizona, at a facility that will be 100 percent powered by solar and geothermal energy.
Facebook announced in November that it will use 100 percent wind energy to power its data center in Iowa. In 2012, having heard from hundreds of thousands of its fans as part of Greenpeace’s Unfriend Coal campaign, Facebook committed to a goal of powering all of its data centers with 100 percent clean energy. It’s now building two 100-percent renewable data centers, in Iowa and Sweden, and is working with its utility in North Carolina to increase the amount of clean energy available for its data center there too.
Despite all the good news stories here about Google and Facebook powering with clean energy—and pressuring their electric utilities to do the same—we learned in 2013 that the companies both joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful corporate “bill mill.” ALEC offers corporations the chance to ghostwrite bills for state legislators, and has led a charge around the country in the past year to attack successful clean energy laws. Google and Facebook say they’re ALEC members for other, non-energy related reasons, but they shouldn’t be lending their good name or their money to a group that is undermining all the good they’ve done.
If you want to watch the new clean energy economy shake off the weight of the old polluting one, North Carolina provided a good glimpse into how that transition is unfolding in real time. Apple, Facebook and Google teamed up to compel their electric utility in North Carolina, Duke Energy, one of the nation’s biggest emitters of global warming pollution, to offer a new breakthrough renewable energy program in November.
Despite all the good news above, the company that may power more of the Internet than anyone, Amazon, remained addicted to coal. Amazon stores the data for some of the biggest Internet services in the world, including Netflix, Yelp, Pinterest and others. So its refusal to budge leaves a dark cloud over the otherwise increasingly sunny future of how the Internet will be powered. Tell Amazon to get on the clean energy bandwagon here, and look for more ways in 2014 that you can tell Amazon and its customers to power their wonderful services with equally wonderful energy from the wind and sun.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.