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Facebook just invested in the bragging rights to say it’s going green

Bill Clark/Getty
Down on Zuckerberg’s wind farm.
By Todd Woody
AltoonaPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Not to be outdone by Apple, Google and Microsoft, Facebook is jumping on the green bandwagon, announcing today that a 138-megawatt wind farm will supply electricity for its new data center in Iowa when it goes online in 2015.

Unlike Apple, which is building its own solar and fuel-cell farms to power its data centers or recent deals by Google and Microsoft, Facebook hasn’t invested directly in the wind farm under construction in Wellsburg, Iowa, near its Altoona data center. Nor has the company signed a long-term contract to buy the electricity generated by the project that will be owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Rather, Facebook will receive renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated by the wind farm to offset the electricity consumed by the data center. The sale of RECs is meant to encourage development of renewable energy projects.

Facebook did, however, help get the wind farm built. It originally obtained the development rights for the wind farm and later transferred the project to MidAmerican Energy. In exchange, Facebook gets the RECs and the bragging rights that it’s powering its data center with clean energy.

The company came under attack from Greenpeace in 2011 when it opened a massive data center in Prineville, Oregon, that is largely powered by coal-fired electricity. Since then, the company has been making environmental amends, initiating a project to increase the energy efficiency of its data centers. In a blog post, Facebook said that by 2015 it aims to have renewable sources providing 25% of the electricity for its data centers worldwide.

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