Packed with servers that store and deliver emails, videos, and news websites, data centers are hard on the environment. In total they use about 300 terawatt hours of electricity yearly, more than the annual energy used by all but 11 countries in the world. Last year, a "moon shot" exploration by students from three universities, funded by Google with input from Microsoft, led to designs for data centers that use 100% renewable energy, built with timber and rammed earth and not necessarily located outside cities. These designs suggest that an increasingly essential infrastructure doesn’t have to be shunted into the hinterlands or left alone to burn electricity and fossil fuels at will.

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