The Cloud Is Sucking Up Power in the Pacific Northwest

If things don't change, data centers could consume 10 percent of the region's power by 2030.

Facebook’s Prineville, Oregon facility. (Photo:

What with all the reduction in paper, it’s easy to think of the cloud as wholly virtual, naught but an abstraction. That might be true as far as your desk goes, but all the bytes that comprise your Facebook (META) photos and Google (GOOGL) Docs are stored somewhere: in massive data centers, many of them scattered across the Northwest thanks to cheap power prices and lighter taxes.

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However, locals are starting to worry that, as more of these server farms come online, this cottage industry will start monkeying with power prices. And it’s no wonder they’re concerned. The Oregonian reports:

If the data centers keep coming, and fail to make their massive facilities more efficient, they could devour nearly 10 percent of all the Northwest’s energy by 2030.

The secretive industry and the utilities that serve them will say little about their long-term plans, frustrating analysts who say they’re left to guess at how data centers will affect regional power rates.

For the record, that would be two-thirds the amount of power consumed by the Northwest aluminum industry’s smelters in the 1980s. It doesn’t take an electrical engineer to say that smacks of inefficiency. The good news, however, is that Facebook and its ilk would prefer not to blow cash on electricity, so companies are taking steps (including installing a solar array, in Apple (AAPL)’s case) to use less.

Well, gang, can we safely say that New York has finally found a slice of the tech business of which we want no part?

(h/t GigaOm)

The Cloud Is Sucking Up Power in the Pacific Northwest