Sunday, April 14, 2024

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The Netherlands May Not Reach Climate Goals Due to Facebook

The Netherlands is the fifth-largest economy within the EU, and while it has made great strides towards lowering emissions, it’s still a ways off. And a new Facebook data center may prevent the Netherlands from achieving its climate goals.

By the end of the decade, members of the EU are required to lower emissions by 55% to help the EU reach net zero emissions by 2050. Currently, the Netherlands is not on track. The current trajectory will see a reduction of 38% to 48%.

While it is a massive reduction, the new Facebook data center may make it impossible to achieve the required reduction in emissions.

How Big Is Meta’s New Datacenter?

Datacenter size

The new data center will not just be for Facebook, as it will also service Instagram and WhatsApp. It is currently estimated that the data center will use 1,380-gigawatt-hours of energy per year.

For comparison’s sake, this data center will use as much energy as a city with a population of 460,000 people per year. This is just shy of the entire population of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Now, one thing that may confuse a lot of people is that Meta requires that the data center only use renewable energy. On the surface, this should mean that the data center won’t add emissions right?

Well, not quite.

You see, there’s only so much renewable energy to go around. This data center will actually require 10% of the country’s wind energy each year. Or to say this another way, the country needs to use 10% more fossil fuels to make up for the wind energy it consumes.

Thus, even if the data center does not use fossil fuel directly, it increases emissions.

Facebook Is Building on the Netherlands Farmland

When most people think of data centers, they tend to only think about electricity usage. And that makes a lot of sense, but there is something a bit more unique to consider in this situation…the data center is being built on farmland.

And it is not small. It will take up 166 hectares, or 410.195 acres.

For comparison, a football field is 1.32 acres. That means that this data center will be approximately the same size as 310 football fields. That’s a lot of land that could be used to grow crops and plants that absorb emissions from the atmosphere.

Does This Mean Meta’s Net-Zero Claims Are False?

Technically, no.

In reality, these data centers do not use fossil fuels themselves. They only use renewable energy, thus the company is free to claim that they have a sustainable operation. The problem is that it is only half of the picture.

The truth is that they are still increasing the amount of energy the country must produce.

This has some advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, these countries need to invest in renewable energy to ensure these companies will be willing to build these facilities. The problem is that most of these country’s build the bare minimum.

One solution to the problem is if these companies also built renewable energy farms or commit to investing in that sector within the country. But something like that would be at the whim of shareholders.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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