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Reducing Your Carbon Footprint - One Server (and PC) at a Time


  10:56:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 529 words  
Categories: Climate Change, Energy Efficiency

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint - One Server (and PC) at a Time

One of the paradoxes of our so-called Information Age is that while the Internet brings a world of knowledge to our fingertips, it comes at the cost of a fairly high carbon footprint. Those servers that sustain the World Wide Web consume enormous amounts of power - power which for the most part comes from burning coal.  That dark little secret means that the very largest Internet entities - such as Google, Facebook and Twitter - could be responsible for enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Google solar array

While Google has been highly visible in its efforts to power its server farms from renewable sources - sporting everything from vast solar arrays to the latest fuel cell technologies - Facebook and Twitter have been largely silent on this issue.

At least for Facebook, that silence has now been broken.  Announcing something that it is calling the Open Compute Project, Facebook is now offering information on the greening of its server farms and providing documentation on what it did so that others can follow suit.  According to the OPC site, Facebook claims that its “vanity free servers” are 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than what is generally found in state-of-the-art data centers.  Still, the LA Times is reporting that Greenpeace is pushing Facebook to do more - including pledging to get all of the energy that it needs to run its data centers from renewable sources.  No word yet on whether or not Facebook will make such a pledge.

All of that is good for Facebook, but what about the rest of us?  True, most of us don’t run server farms or manage data centers, but we all use computers to access the Internet - to write and then to read this post, for example.  What about us?  If we are not in a position to upgrade our computers at home or at work to the latest and most efficient models, what are we to do?

In an effort to make our operations as green as possible (within our budget!) we recently installed “power saving software” called Granola from MiserWare that helps you “help save the planet” by lowering the energy usage of your PC.  Or as they say:

Granola makes computers more energy efficient without slowing them down. It’s safe, it’s easy, and it lets your computer run like a hybrid Ferrari – fast when you need speed, but energy efficient when you don’t. Granola helps you save the world.

We have used the software for just over two months on our primary office PC and here are our results so far: 19.7 kWh saved for an overall efficiency improvement of 23.8%  Will those numbers save the world?  No.  But imagine the savings if every PC adopted similar software?  In our experience the software has been entirely transparent and we have had no problems using it at all.

We have said it before and we will say it again - energy efficiency is more cost effective than energy generation.  We encourage all of our clients to make their buildings as energy efficient as possible before adding solar. In that vein, we applaud the efforts by Facebook and are happy to promote Granola - collectively we will save the world.


1 comment

Very interesting post. Sure would be nice to see FB do more than increase energy efficiency. It’s the energy efficiency + renewable energy combo that’s the most powerful, as you point out here. I’m going to check out Granola too. Generally, what i do to be as energy efficient as possible with PCs is to turn them off whenever I’m not using them. At night, I also turn off the power strip that the monitor is plugged into. My understanding is that laptops are, on the whole, 2/3 more efficient than desktops too – and my next work computer will definitely be a laptop (and a Mac, too – tired of getting viruses on PCs ;-)
04/08/11 @ 14:36

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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