Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Facebook open-sourcing PUE dashboards

As part of their OpenCompute initiative, Facebook is now also open-sourcing the code for their dashboards to report PUE and WUE of their data centers. Rackspace is also leveraging this code to report on numbers from their data centers. You can view this in action for FB's Prineville Data Center to get a sense for its capabilities. This could be an interesting direction for all cloud companies to disclose real time efficiency numbers for their operations. As discussed recently, not all internet and cloud companies are created equal when it comes to carbon footprint...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

eWaste policy in action

In 2013, Workday committed to a "100% no landfill policy" and we have been actively implementing this program in the last year. For example, across 4 different data centers and office locations we have conducted six hard drive collections for data destruction, shredding and recycling of materials. This accounted for a total of almost 3,000 disk drives. Similarly, over 370 units of obsolete computing equipment were collected, cleansed and made ready for resell. Recycling can even be profitable on recovery value if done right!

Workday is committed to this program on a global scale and we are extending our coverage going forward. This will ensure that we are doing our best to minimize any negative impact on the environment as outlined in our sustainability commitment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Green internet

With much of our lives moving online, we need to become more conscientious of how our clicks are powered. While some leaders already consume only renewable energy sources to provide their services, others are stuck in the dirty world of fossil fuels. Greenpeace has issued a report analysing the current state of the internet and calls out several green internet innovators such as Google green, Apple's Environmental Responsibility or recently Facebook. This has not always been the case and Greenpeace has run targeted campaigns to pressure these players into becoming more responsible of their power-related emission footprint. You can take action to move more internet players into this direction. As the report states "Six major cloud brands – Apple, Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace, and Salesforce – have committed to a goal of powering data centers with 100 % renewable energy and are providing the early signs of the promise and potential impact of a renewably powered internet."

We can also see this in the world of enterprise applications. SAP has announced to power all their data centers and offices with 100% renewable energy. And of course, Workday has been doing this since 2008 and going forward as a 100% green power purchaser! Going forward Workday is using a blend of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) to achieve carbon neutrality for our power consumption.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Electricity transformation

As the world energy consumption continues to rise every year, the portion of energy generated from renewable sources is finally also increasing in a measurable way. For example, in 2012 over 28% of electricity produced in the EU was sourced from Renewables (with Norway producing 98% of their electricity in a clean way from large hydro!).

So slowly, but surely the mix of primary energy sources consumed to generate electricity in the grid is shifting more towards renewables. What implications could that have? One aspect to think about is the role of utility companies. Large electricity companies are operating coal, gas or nuclear power plants and sell their electricity on the market. But these old-school sources are now no longer competitive with electricity from renewable sources. German energy giant RWE admitted that in 2013 and started shutting down a good amount of its capacity. In fact, in a recent global PWC study 94% of utility company expect a complete transformation of the utility business model. Mostly decentralised, mid-scale renewable electricity could ultimately become the predominant grid source and utility companies would take the role of a safety net in case of peak demand. For this, they could charge an 'insurance fee' or as recently stated by a utility CEO "you don't pay the firemen for the water they use, but for being there when it burns".

But will it burn? Amory Lovins' Rocky Mountain Institute recently released a study on the potential of 'grid defection'. With local battery capacity on the rise and distributed roof top solar being widely available, they calculated when this system could reach economic electric grid parity and make it possible for customer to defect the grid entirely. 

Overall, it seems clear that the times of centrally produced, large scale dirty energy are economically over. The new normal will be a distributed system of clean energy sources as outlined by Hermann Scheer in his book "the energy imperative". What lies ahead is a difficult uphill road to get us there against the current status quo, but it is the only game in town.  

Other helpful resources on clean energy:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Solar powered cars

Note: the following post includes the personal opinion of a single Green Team member

Usually solar powered cars are some goofy looking vehicles taped together by a few undergrad students for a solar mobility competition in the Australian outback. That's all very good and important, but in my view there is much more to the concept. Electricity can efficiently and cleanly be produced by photovoltaics and electric vehicles of all kinds can be efficiently powered by it. Let's look at both of these aspects.

PV arrays have increased in efficiency while dropping sharply in price. In 1980, a MWh of solar power would have cost almost $1,600 while in 2010 the same amount of power was available for $200 (as outlined in the much recommend GMO quarterly report by Jeremy Grantham). Prices are likely to continue to go down making solar a highly competitive power source. If only it were to shine all 24 hours of each day...

Similarly, electric vehicles are much more efficient in use of primary energy to move about their cargo (i.e. single humans mostly). Even if we were to burn the same gasoline in a stationary large scale facility to generate electricity, it would be more efficient than driving around a small scale engine with direct exhausts. More so, electric vehicles have much less moving parts and are simply more economical over time (on top of being more ecological right out of the gate). A quick look at key ingredients of the Tesla Model S makes that point clear.

In my personal quest to become electricity (not quite energy) independent, I have added a PV array to our house capable of producing 27 kWp (that's kilowatt peak).  Even in "sunny" Germany, this setup produces about 24,000 kWh / year, which I can consume or sell back into the grid as clean energy due to the German system of feed-in tariffs. This, of course, is way more electricity than we consume as a family (about 6,000 kWh per year for a 6 person household). But this is where electric mobility comes in. We can use the excess power we generate to charge our electric car! On a clear sunny day this looks as follows:

Our solar power control center "SMA home manager" shows the current electricity flow from the roof to the house drawing 7.4 kW (and taking 260 W from the grid to supplement). 

At the same time, the car is set from my iPhone's mobile app to being charging at this moment consuming the locally generated clean solar power to fill its battery. That's what I call a "solar powered car".

An electric vehicle has a certain amount of kWh it consumes per 100km driven. The new BMW i3 for example is rated at 12.9 kWh / 100km. So to drive 20.000 km it would require 2.580 kWh. This is an amount that can be achieved by a normal household sized roof top PV array. Even if sourced from the grid as 100% renewable energy at .25 Euro-Cents / kWh, it would be less than half of what you would have to pay at the pump to drive that far.

The crux is that our car is not always parked in our home garage plugged into our house grid when the sun shines. This is where two co-dependent factors come into play: a high number of electric vehicles and wide distribution of standardized charge points. As soon as EVs can be plugged in (or better using plugless charging systems) at work, at the supermarket, at the gym, almost anywhere, they can be connected to the grid as an electricity consumer while charging as well as contributor selling electricity back. The accounting for the demand and supply based battery management is likely easier than my daughters cell phone plan. On a large scale many of these 'driving storage systems' can be used to manage the inherent ebb and flow of renewable energy sources in today's electricity grids.

In my view, a future with de-centrally produced clean energy, a large number of electric vehicles and a widespread bi-directional charging infrastructure is possible. It is the true potential of solar powered cars and a much preferable outlook over today's fossil fuel based mobility.

Monday, December 16, 2013

eBay pioneers Digital Service Efficiency

As part of eBay's efforts to improve energy efficiency of their trading platform, the company has created a dashboard bringing kWh consumed by their data centers in relation to online activity. Specifically, they measure energy efficiency per Buy / Sell, their key business metrics. This level of metrics and visualization is a unique step forward in showing the value of energy efficient design and implementation of services.

Their dashboard is also exposed publicly for everyone to view here. This brings a new level of transparency into data center efficiency metrics.

eBay has also released this methodology to the Green Grid for other companies to leverage. They have documented the detailed development steps in a public whitepaper to stimulate further discussion in the peer group of cloud companies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Workday ranked fifth biggest user of Green Power amongst technology companies

In a recent Bloomberg study, Workday was ranked the fifth largest consumer of Green Power (by percentage) amongst its peer group of technology companies. Led by giants such as Lenovo, Microsoft or SAP, this list also differentiates between companies producing clean energy themselves (such as Apple or Adobe) and other using RECs or other clean energy products to achieve their goals. Strangely missing from this list are companies like Google (major player in clean energy), Amazon (getting there) and Salesforce (recently also commitment to clean energy).

This is exciting validation that our efforts to be a 100% green powered cloud player are recognized and our CSR report is used as a source for such information.