Facebook used 86 percent renewable energy last year

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Facebook used 86 percent clean energy last year.
Image: Unsplash | Alex Haney

Two years ago, Facebook pledged that it would power the entirety of its operations with clean energy by the end of 2020. It appears that the company is on track to meet that goal. On Tuesday, Facebook published its first-ever sustainability report.

The social media giant announced that it used 86 percent renewable energy last year. That’s a big improvement from just 35 percent in 2015. It’s a positive step forward for a company that can’t seem to do much right these days.

Running Clean

Facebook has established an impressive network of wind and solar projects across the United States to help achieve its goal of running on 100 percent clean energy. The cornerstone of that network is a massive solar farm in Texas. The 4,600-acre facility will have a capacity of 379 megawatts—enough to power almost 72,000 homes—when it is completed.

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Meanwhile, the company says that its Menlo Park headquarters runs completely on renewable energy. The campus also diverts 90 percent of its waste away from landfills thanks to recycling and composting efforts.

However, Facebook’s headquarters isn’t the issue when it comes to energy usage. It’s the company’s many data centers that eat up electricity. Fortunately, it is also working to make them run on clean energy. Four of Facebook’s U.S. data centers earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certifications. One of its centers in Sweden earned a LEED Platinum certification—the highest possible rating.

Globally, Facebook has more than 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy projects up and running. Another five GW worth of clean energy projects are under contract.

Environmental Focus

While Facebook’s efforts to reduce its energy footprint are impressive, that isn’t the only area the company is focusing on. It also has initiatives to limit water usage, decrease emissions, and recycle its heat. Yes, really.

In Odense, Denmark, Facebook plans to recover the tremendous amount of heat generated by its servers and use it to warm homes in the nearby city. It aims to provide 100,000 MWh of energy per year. That’s enough to heat 6,900 homes and will help Odense phase out coal by 2022.

Meanwhile, Facebook is also working to decrease its water usage. Last year, the company saved more than three billion gallons. It is also investing in watershed restoration projects in Oregon and New Mexico. A pilot project at the latter location helped reduce the amount of water used for cooling by 40 percent.

Facebook projects that its water-saving efforts will help restore 206,000 cubic meters of water every year.

Work to Be Done

Despite the fact that it has made significant strides, Facebook knows that there is still plenty of work to do. If it intends to meet its environmental goals by the end of this year, it will need to continue investing in clean energy projects.

Rachel Peterson, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure says, “Now more than ever, businesses need to think not only about managing their operational impact but about working with others to leverage their technical strengths and address sustainability challenges.”

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