Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Internet Takes Energy Too

Summary: What many people don't realize when they are using some of their favorite websites is that they use a large amount of energy. 1.6% of the U.S. annual energy goes to operating these data storage centers. One of the biggest costs of this is the energy it takes to keep the technology cool. Microsoft recently tried to combat this problem by locating on of their data centers in Dublin where the weather could do this work for them. Another huge consumer is the computing chips themselves that consume huge amounts which are only expected to rise in the future.

Comments: This is something many of us really don't think about when we're logging on to our favorite websites. It also puts a new perspective on how we can save energy. As our technology and capabilities grow, so does our need for energy, and this is going to make it very difficult in the future to continue to provide the electricity while trying to cut down on our fossil fuels. So really the electricity that this technology takes goes hand in hand with the need for new sources of energy because in some regards our energy uses are only going to go up in the future.


Borja JR said...

Only with time will the technology be out there to optimize the size of data centers, reducing the need to waste money on cooling technology. The fact that Microsoft considers moving around to different areas simply to save money on cooling, tells us just how much money is required.
Nevertheless, the internet is now an essential part of our lifestyle. Not just as a recreational tool, but in fact in all sectors. There isn't a business out there that doesnt require the need to have an internet connection. Bank accounts, money transfers, government information and archives, you name it. Data is stored and therefore there truly isn't an option to not use. However, what can be done is increasing the efficiency of computers themselves. The simple act of converting alternate current to direct current is so inefficient that most computers deserve to be never turned on. Without mentioning the fact that a great number of people do not turn off their computers when not in use. Just so we get a sense of things, according to an energy report, carried out by a company concerned with energy consumption. Leaving the computer on at night for a year, a company with 10000PCs waster about 1.4 million KWh, which is about 828 tons of CO2 emissions. If all of the worlds computers powered down just for one night, it would save energy to light up the Empire State building for more than 30 years.
This really does seem to be something that has a simple solution. It seems to me that we simply don't care. This is due to the fact we are unaware of what we are actually doing. Gladly, companies like IBM spend money on R+D and actually try to make their computers more efficient. As a way of accepting the fact that, we are not going to do anything, so they have to.
Hopefully enough information will be put out there to inform the general population into understanding just how much we can save by doing something so simple that it requires little or no effort.

Bartleby said...

It is interesting to see the magnitude of energy that data centers use (and to think about how much information those centers hold). Keeping the large databases of energy to the proper temperature would definitely require a lot of energy (just like it does in your own computer), and it is in the companies best interest to innovate and improve upon these cooling methods, but there is much work to be done regarding cooling technologies and overall efficiencies of computers. Heat is an enemy of the transistor. I applaud Microsoft's effort to reduce their energy consumption by building a database in a climate that is advantageous to their purpose. Computers will continue to grow in their usefulness around the world, and we must address the energy problems of this, and do our best to promote efficient computing.

Daniel Gellerup

Diego said...

It's true in the future we'll be using all the technologies much more and we'll need much more energy to keep cool all the devices we'll be using. But going back to the development of technologies today, the speed we get new tools, new machines, new achievements, isn't it possible to solve this problem from the other side? Wouldn't it be easier to avoid this need of energy to keep every computer cool?
Each 2 years we change our computer or laptop cause there is one better, with more memory, lighter... Why can't we invent a computer that doesn't get hot? Why can't we analyze what we have yet and what we can get with this and find the way not to need that energy?
It’s true we can find new energy resources to cover those needs, but in few years we would run out of energy again and we’d need to find another way to continue this circle. It’s time to learn how to survive without the continuous use of energy for everything. If we found all what we have today, we’ll find how to get this.

Vladimir said...

I would occasionally think about how much energy logging into a website would be, but it was never a main interest to me to figure out the precise amount. With these facts, it will become true that in the future it will be difficult to provide electricity due to that technology increasing every second. There is a solution to this situation but as it seems, people just do not seem to care or they just do not think about it at the moment they are logging in a website.

itzy said...

To be honest, I had never really thought of the great amount of energy needed for the internet to work as it does today. I imagine that there's millions and millions of people, all over the world, who use the internet on a daily basis for many different reasons. I'm pretty sure this number is just going to keep on rising as time goes by, and it's good to know that the big companies are actually starting to do something to use less energy or alternate sources regardless of their "bottom-line" reasons.

Minhao Dai said...

This post gave a whole new perspective about saving energy. I knew that operating the Internet system cost lots of money, but I never knew this much.But I know that the main energy goes to cooling down the system since the central operator can get really massive and hot. Specially, the online storage cost lots of energy. So, using flash drive instead of email can help a lot. And agree with author, there are so many little things we didn't pay attention to also waste our energy like 1-2%. Do something about them can also help us save the energy.