Carbon Costs Could Add Up for Silicon Valley Companies

"Cap and trade" means coal-powered data center costs would increase

By Jackson West
|  Friday, May 21, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Carbon Costs Could Add Up for Silicon Valley Companies

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THE DALLES, OR - JUNE 15: One of Google's two new computing centers is seen from the air June 15, 2006 in The Dalles, Oregon. The centers, each the size of a football field, are located in the small Oregon town of 12,000, 80 miles east of Portland. (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)

The huge data centers that power the Internet could end up costing companies like Google millions more under a "cap and trade" carbon emissions reduction program.

That's because most of the nation's electricity is still produced by coal-fired power plants, and data centers are one of the fastest-growing consumers of electricity.

Google spends approximately $38 million a year on electricity for its data centers nationwide, and a carbon tax could increase that by as much as 50 percent or more.

Even though that money is chump change for Google, the company is aggressively investing in a project dubbed "RE < C," an effort to create renewable energy sources that are cheaper than coal.

In England, where nearly all electricity comes from coal, a carbon reduction tax has already been implemented and no new data centers have been built.

Suggesting that some companies may simply move their power-hungry operations to other countries.

Jackson West has been noodling micro-hydro to run a server and network in the mountains of Washington.

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