According to experts, Libra, Facebook's new cryptocurrency, should have a lower environmental footprint than some of its most notorious brothers, including Bitcoin. Its energy needs should be more like those of existing data centers – which, while remaining demanding, are not as energy efficient as bitcoins.
The currency has not yet been launched, it is difficult to know how these claims will adapt to reality. But its design – more centralized than most crypto-currencies – means that Libra will probably consume less energy. Unlike its decentralized peers, the centralized center of the currency can create Libra.
"This is an order of magnitude more efficient than bitcoin will be," says Ulrich Gallersdörfer, a researcher at the Technical University of Munich, who is dedicated to blockchain research. Gallersdörfer was the co-author of a recent article in Jwhere the noting that bitcoin operations emit more greenhouse gases than the Jordanian country.
Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy because people want to keep the cryptocurrency must compete. This means that Bitcoin mining operations need a lot of computing power to tackle a single coin, and to stay in the race, they must all be able to solve complicated problems simultaneously. That you use a huge amount of energy each year – in 2018, estimated that bitcoin used about as much energy as Ireland.
In contrast, Libra is designed for an algorithm to issue cryptocurrency units in proportion to the size of the initial deposit of a company in the system. It's still a lot to keep in mind, but it's far from being as complicated as a mining operation. Instead, it looks more like … normal data centers. Data centers now also consume energy. In fact, data centers accounted for 2% of total US energy consumption in 2014, at 2016 study published by the DOE found. And they are also responsible for about as much carbon dioxide emissions as the airline industry. Despite these drawbacks, these specially designed server warehouses are the cornerstone on which technology giants such as Facebook continue to build and expand their digital empire.
"Facebook or other companies will have to configure servers, run the software, validate the transactions, but it's not really different from running regular services for Facebook.com or WhatsApp," says Gallersdörfer.
Facebook has made concerted efforts to make their centers more sustainable, but the demand for energy generated by Libra could be a useful way of looking generally at how to make data centers less damaging to the environment. The simplest thing to do is to make sure that existing resources are used. It therefore means more efficient equipment. But it also involves taking into account the huge amounts of water used to cool the servers: in many cases, fresh water passes through the system and is rejected, becoming a terrible waste. especially in areas of water scarcity.
According to Emilio Tenuta, vice president of sustainable development at Ecolab, one way to meet the challenge in a world where water is scarce is to reuse water as often as possible. But water can not be used forever in cooling systems. As it heats up and moves in pipes, salts and other contaminants, think about the scale hard water forming in a bathroom – can accumulate in the machine and make it less effective. But by constantly monitoring and treating water as it passes through a system, companies like Ecolab hope to be able to recirculate water through cooling systems as often as possible, reducing the need for amount of water used throughout the data centers.
Making existing centers more efficient is fine, but Scale scale products could mean new data centers – and where they are important. According to Katrina Kelly-Pitou, businesses could save themselves (and save the world) from many environmental problems by simply looking for better places to install data centers.
Kelly-Pitou, urban systems strategist for architecture and engineering firm SmithGroup, said companies need to look for locations with skilled software engineers – to keep servers running – as well as sources abundant and low-carbon energy. By relying on a hydroelectric dam, a nearby wind farm or a nuclear power plant, instead of coal or natural gas, data centers could significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Indeed, each data center ultimately depends on the energy network. And that's where many of today's data centers are down.
"The region where we are failing in the United States is cleaning up our power supply and the fact that we can count on clean energy for the economic development we want," Kelly-Pitou said.
Libra has not been launched. We do not know if it will take off. But for it to take off, it will need data centers – and development of greener data centers, and a low-carbon energy network to power them – can be profitable at all costs.