Todd Woody

Todd Woody is an environmental and technology journalist based in California who writes for The New York Times, Quartz, and other publications.

Business & Technology

Dirty clouds: Greenpeace ranks tech giants on their data centers’ coal dependency

Tech companies have something hanging over their heads.Photo: The SharpteamAs I sit here at the Local 123 café in Berkeley on Earth Day, a dozen hipsters are transfixed by their Macbooks, their heads lost in the cloud. According to a Greenpeace report [PDF] released this week, all those presumably green and well-meaning digital workers-slash-slackers are contributing to global warming every time they update their Facebook status, scan their Twitter stream or check their Gmail. That’s because all those apps live in massive data centers — a.k.a. “the cloud.” In the “How Dirty is Your Data?” report, Greenpeace analysts estimate data …

Wind Power

Google to buy 100.8 megawatts of Oklahoma wind energy

Google’s Oklahoma wind farm will be built this year.Photo: Marcin WicharyIt’s getting a bit hard to keep up with all of Google’s green investments these days — $168 million put into a big solar power plant project one week; $100 million for the world’s largest wind farm the next. But this week’s big money move — the third so far this month — is different. It also involves wind but is a power purchase agreement (known as a PPA in the utility trade) rather than a direct investment in a specific project. The deal with wind developer NextEra Energy Resources …

Wind Power

Google invests $100 million in giant Oregon wind farm

Google is helping to create economies of scale for clean energy.Photo: T.J.Another day, another $100 million invested in clean energy. Google has been on a green tech investment roll of late. Last week, the search giant put $168 million into BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt solar thermal power plant, currently the world’s largest solar project, which is under construction in the Southern California desert. And on Monday, Google announced it would invest $100 million in the 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon. Shepherds Flat, being built near Arlington, Ore., will be the world’s largest turbine farm when completed, if it hasn’t …

Wind Power

Texas to install world’s largest wind energy storage system

The Notrees wind farm.Photo: Duke EnergyThey like to do things big in Texas, so it’s no surprise that the Lone Star state will launch the world’s largest wind battery storage project. Duke Energy is not a Texas company, but it owns the aptly named Notrees wind farm in the Texas panhandle. The North Carolina power giant is teaming up with an Austin area startup called Xtreme Power to install a 36-megawatt battery at the 153-megawatt Notrees Windpower Project near Kermit, Texas. That’s one big battery. Such technology is likely to become crucial as wind farms become ever larger but erratic …

Solar Power

Australia announces big solar project — at a coal plant

The Kogan Creek Power Station.Photo: Kogan Solar BoostAustralian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday appeared at giant coal-fired power plant to announce that the Southern Hemisphere’s largest solar project would be built in Queensland. Why, you may be wondering, would the PM travel to a remote 750-megawatt coal power station to make a big renewable energy news pronouncement? Well, coal is king in Australia, and the 44-megawatt solar thermal project to be built by Areva Solar at the Kogan Creek Power Station will generate additional steam to drive the coal plant’s turbines. “By using energy from the sun with Areva’s …

Renewable Energy

California solar has a sunny week

A rendering of the future Ivanpah solar plant. Photo: BrightSource EnergyIt’s only Tuesday but two milestones have been reached this week in the long march toward a carbon-free future. On Monday, BrightSource Energy became the first solar power plant developer to complete the financing of a large-scale project in two decades. The United States Department of Energy finalized a $1.6 billion loan guarantee BrightSource’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System solar thermal power plant now under construction in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. (The feds initially had pledged $1.37 billion but threw in another $230 million Monday.) As the …

Business & Technology

Ford uses recycled carpet in engines

I was going to write today about Facebook’s efforts to boost the energy efficiency of its Oregon data center by 38 percent. The social networking Goliath did that by redesigning servers and the operations of the facility, then broke with industry convention by sharing its secret sauce with competitors in a new initiative it calls the Open Compute Project. (That didn’t exactly neutralize criticism from Greenpeace, which has mounted a campaign against Facebook for its dependence on coal-fired power plants at the company’s Prineville, Ore., data center.) Data centers are the steel mills of our post-industrial information economy and consume …

Renewable Energy

How green are those solar panels, anyway?

SolarWorld’s ratings aim to keep the photovoltaic industry on the sunny side.So which is the sunniest solar manufacturer of them all? I don’t mean companies whose photovoltaic panels generate the most carbon-free electricity, but which are the most environmentally friendly in their manufacturing, labor, and recycling practices. Solar modules can contain toxic materials, and they have a finite life cycle. As the industry booms — the number of megawatts installed in the United States in 2010, for instance, spiked 67 percent — photovoltaic trash eventually will become an issue. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition this week released its annual Solar …

Business & Technology

Powering up: Green tech investment surges

The money’s coming in for green tech.Photo: MoneyblognewzSome good news on the environmental front for a change: Global investment in green technology in the first quarter of the year spiked 52 percent compared to the previous quarter, to $2.57 billion. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the Cleantech Group, a San Francisco research and consulting firm. The increase represents a 13 percent jump over the first quarter of 2010, and indicates that investors’ appetite for renewable energy, electric cars, and other green technologies continues to rebound from the recession. But the numbers aren’t exactly good news for entrepreneurs …

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