June 6, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Microsoft vs. Google: Who's greener?

As Google and Microsoft battle for the hearts and minds of Internet users, a new question has cropped up: Which one can better save planet Earth?

Being portals and search engines, the companies are likely among the worst energy users because of the cooling and energy their data centers need to operate. When asked, company representatives did not say what, if anything, the data centers are doing to improve efficiency and reduce energy.

Tech giants go green

No doubt, Google and Microsoft, two of the top Internet sites in the world, use massive amounts of electricity to power and cool their data centers. But outside of the electricity that makes the businesses run, they are among the leading adopters of so-called green policies in corporate America.

Subsidies for buying Priuses? Check. Solar panels? Check. Hormone-free chicken in the corporate cafeteria? Check. Between them, they're doing a variety of things to try to make the Sierra Club, organic farmers and Al Gore proud.

"Any organization that looks at a way to become more efficient and reduce its energy consumption and emissions and makes facilities more human friendly and less toxic and more resource-conscious from the standpoint of sustainability is taking positive steps toward living in the environment in a more compatible way," said Stan Van Velsor, global warming program coordinator for environmental group Sierra Club's Loma Prieta Chapter office in Palo Alto, Calif.

So who is the greenest of them all? While it's nearly impossible to make a judgment, both tech titans seem to have made Earth-friendly policies a priority.

Microsoft's credentials
Microsoft made a big splash when it installed more than 2,000 solar panels across more than 30,000 square feet on top of its Mountain View, Calif., campus on Earth Day in April. The panels, believed to be part of the largest solar power system in Silicon Valley, generate 480 kilowatts of power at peak capacity--enough energy to power 500 homes--and provide about 15 percent of the campus's total energy, said George Koshy, facilities manager. For the rainy Seattle area, where the company's headquarters is located, solar is not a feasible alternative, he said.

Installing solar power is an "excellent way" to help reduce the demand for electricity and thus curb greenhouse gas emissions created by the generation of that electricity, Van Velsor said.

Microsoft also has agreed to promote carbon-dioxide emission reduction among individual employees as part of the Cool It campaign, which helps people calculate their lifestyle's carbon dioxide emissions, Van Velsor said.

In addition, Cascade Investment, a venture firm funded by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, has invested $84 million in Pacific Ethanol, which manufactures a corn-derived ethanol that can be mixed with gas to power cars.

One of the most important things any company can do to promote earth-friendly practices is to get employees out of their cars, Van Velsor noted. Microsoft provides free mass-transit passes for its 35,000 employees in the Seattle area, subsidizes transit for its roughly 1,500 Silicon Valley employees, and offers free shuttles between train stations and offices, a Microsoft representative said. Employees get a discount when buying gas-electric hybrid cars, and Microsoft uses hybrid Toyota Priuses as shuttles on the main campus.

In 2005, Microsoft was recognized as one of the top five best workplaces for commuters by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Joan Krajewski, chief environmental counsel for the company. More than 11,000 workers commute to the Redmond, Wash., main campus via some "green" method such as mass transit, bike or car pool.

Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus, built in 1999, features dimmable and motion sensor-based lighting, carpets and doors that are made from recycled material (which can be recycled again), and drought-resistant landscaping, said site leader John Matheny.

An advanced irrigation management system on Microsoft's campuses replenishes the water when it detects weather changes, reducing the annual water usage by 11 million gallons, Krajewski said. The copiers and printers use paper that contains at least one-third recycled content, and the Redmond campus alone recycles 129 tons of material a month, she said.

Microsoft has a silver certification level for the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program for environmental design. Microsoft also works with the Carbon Disclosure Project to track kilowatts of usage.

CONTINUED: Google's efforts…
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9 comments

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HHO fuel ROX!
Looks pretty good as far as having a very instant translation process from water to HHO. HHO is not as volatile as Hydrogen and doesn't produce excess heat.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.waterfuelconverters.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.waterfuelconverters.com/</a>
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows Not Efficient
Sorry, there's no comparison here. The excessive energy usage of the millions of PC's and servers that use Windows caused by Microsoft's inefficient code (and their need to add complexity for security and inefficient virus scanners) most likely far outweighs any effort they put forth to curtail energy usage.
Posted by jazzcat (4 comments )
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Datacenters not efficient
Windows has extensive power management capability, but many customers don't use it or application software disables the functions. Many times a computer has been set up to sleep after a certain amount of time, but the policy stops working.

A big concern too is the massive datacenters that both companies operate and continue to expand. These are not nearly as efficient as they could be, relying on a huge number of servers (think millions) running under their capacity, and with no active power management.
Posted by jeffgo4 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Datacenters not efficient
Windows has extensive power management capability, but many customers don't use it or application software disables the functions. Many times a computer has been set up to sleep after a certain amount of time, but the policy stops working.

A big concern too is the massive datacenters that both companies operate and continue to expand. These are not nearly as efficient as they could be, relying on a huge number of servers (think millions) running under their capacity, and with no active power management.
Posted by jeffgo4 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Good old solar...
It's just too bad that electricity-generating solar panels take more energy to produce than they can ever generate in their lifetime. Not to mention many components and chemicals in solar panels are highly toxic and horrid for our environment. Solar heating, sure. Solar electricity, no dice. Just one more reason for me to stick with my trusty Linux OS.
Posted by promiscuousrobot (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Solar panels
Solar panels could be better, if the people who designed them realized that sun light is not needed to create electricity, that's for magnetic induction is for, if they doped the material with components that further reach to the sunlight to product electricity via induction, then they would produce a lot more voltage difference.

Just my 3 cents.

I love Linux and OS X too.
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Link Flag
Apples & Oranges
The answer to this question is, "both." Google is clearly leading in the internet services space with an incredible advantage over Yahoo and Microsoft. Google will continue to use its lead position as the search king to add more new internet services and further secures its position on the Web. However, Microsoft is obviously leading in the area of business and consumer computing. Microsoft continues to grow by double digits year over year, and is entering new software markets all the time. IBM, Sun, Oracle and MSFT's traditional competitors continue to lose share to MSFT, so the grass is extremely green for MSFT's bottom line for quite some time to come.

Will Google create a web-based computing platform to usurp Microsoft? IMO, that is unlikely to happen within the next decade if ever. People like control over their personal information, and storing things "out there somewhere" is uncomfortable. Will Microsoft whip MSN into shape and create a division that slowly eats into Google's space over time. IMO, that is more likely.

So, while both company's futures are green I'd have to say Microsoft's is greener. History certainly is on their side.

Now, if they would just re-visit the SAP acquisition and consider a SalesForce.com acquisition as well, I'd really have to give MSFT the edge. They need to shake things up a bit and get people excited again. Steve, Bill, you out there?

James.
Posted by James_U (80 comments )
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Cool High Tech Trash Video via Microsoft
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.on10.net/Blogs/TheShow/3567/" target="_newWindow">http://www.on10.net/Blogs/TheShow/3567/</a>
Posted by techtrash7 (3 comments )
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Water Conservation
I don't see any reference to Google or Micrsoft doing anything about conserving water. Water Conservation is an important "Green" matter. Ecotech water is saving facilities between 50% and 70% on thier water consumption by using Ecotech Air Induced products. More information is available at www.ecotechwater.com.
Posted by ecotechwater (1 comment )
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