Posted by Big Gav
Todd Woody has an article at Yale Environment 360 on the technology industry's interest in clean energy, noting "companies such as Google, Adobe Systems, and eBay are preparing for the next step — investing in off-site solar and wind installations and innovative technologies that will supply their offices and data centers with green electricity" - The Greening of Silicon Valley: It Looks Like the Next Big Thing.
From the street, Adobe Systems’ San Jose headquarters looks like any other collection of skyscrapers that dot the downtown of the self-proclaimed capital of Silicon Valley.
But ascend to a skyway that connects two of the software company’s towers and you’ll find a wind farm. Twenty vertical turbines that resemble a modern art installation slowly rotate in the breeze that blows through a six-floor plaza. Down in the parking garage, a dozen electric car-charging stations have been set up. Adobe, which makes the ubiquitous Flash player software, will install 18 more chargers this year to accommodate workers expected to be first in line when the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and other battery-powered vehicles roll into Silicon Valley showrooms later this year.
Adobe also plans to install fuel cells — possibly using carbon neutral biogas made from cow manure — to generate the three megawatts of electricity consumed by its downtown data centers. And since the company has limited roof space to install solar panels, it is considering joining a co-op that would purchase land outside the city for a solar farm, according to Randy Knox, senior director for global workplace solutions for Adobe.
“Once you’ve got your buildings running pretty energy efficient, you start to look at the source of your energy, and that’s where we are now,” says Knox, as the wind turbines slowly spin in the winter wind, generating about 24 kilowatts of electricity. “We’re a technology company and people have to step up and be early adopters in the green area or it won’t go anywhere.”
Silicon Valley companies have long gone green — racking up LEED points by installing everything from solar arrays to waterless urinals to demonstrate their environmental street cred to customers, shareholders, and their young, climate-change-aware workforces.
But for companies in the environmental vanguard, their corporate campuses are laboratories to test new technologies to cut their carbon footprints and improve the bottom line. As climate change legislation remains stalled in Congress, and California struggles through the regulatory complexities of implementing its own global warming law, much of the action has shifted to the private sector.
Case in point: The unveiling of Bloom Energy’s breakthrough fuel cell technology in February. (Fuel cells generate energy without combustion by turning hydrogen, natural gas, biogas or other fuels into electricity through an electrochemical process.)
The Silicon Valley fuel cell manufacturer had spent eight years quietly developing a solid oxide fuel cell to deliver electricity at competitive prices while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. When Bloom finally lifted the curtain on its 100-kilowatt Bloom Energy Server in February, it revealed that Google, eBay, Wal-Mart, Federal Express, and other Fortune 500 heavyweights had already installed cube-shaped, SUV-sized devices at their Bay Area outposts.
“I’d love to see us have a whole data center running on this at some point when they’re ready,” Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, said at a press conference introducing the Bloom Energy Server. “Moving production of energy closer to where it’s used has a lot of environmental benefits and a lot of commercial benefits. It lets you choose your fuel source.”