Facebook announced yesterday that it's been helping to develop an Iowa wind farm to cover the energy use of a new data center. The center's scheduled to open in early 2015, and, Facebook says, "we expect it to be supplied by 100% renewable energy, as tracked by renewable energy certificates, from a new wind project in nearby Wellsburg, Iowa."
What does that actually mean? Well, Facebook got involved with the development of a wind project while thinking of putting a data center in Iowa. But it's not going to actually build or own or operate a wind farm. The company's handed all that business -- the business of actually creating and selling electricity -- over to a local utility, MidAmerican Energy. Luckily for Facebook, it's possible to own the feel-good, “green” part of a wind farm — the renewable energy certificates, which indicate that you're making clean energy -- without actually owning the wind farm.
Think of them as green brownie points.