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Nicholas Carr wrote about how much electricity does a Second Life citizen use in a year, trying to estimate the electricity consumption per virtual citizen. It comes out close to the Brazilian average (note this is just electricity, not considering cars, heating oil, etc). Translated in terms of CO2 production, it comes to 1.17 tons of CO2 per virtual citizen (a total of 14,763 tons overall), equivalent to driving an SUV for 3,700 kilometres.

It has been pointed out that the consumption of the users' computers is not taken into account, and that the amount of power needed for cooling has been underestimated as well.

Someone commented that using rates commonly found in Texas, it would come out to about $1,500 per server annually, so it's not only environmental, this also comes down to real money. This, I find very encouraging, because it has the airs of a concrete implementation of true-cost economy. Even though it's really far from being true-cost, it gives a plain old capitalist incentive to go easy on the environment that's becoming harder and harder to brush aside.

When you buy appliances these days, you generally see a label rating their energy consumption relative to other devices in the same class, and I don't know about people in general, but I try to pick the A or A+ models, not only because it's the right thing to do, but for the rather self-centered reason that it'll be easier on my bank account.

I hope to see something similar for computers, and hopefully see people and businesses favour environmentally (and thus, financially) friendlier machines.

Epilogue: Think of the World of Warcraft servers now.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
$1500 per server / year seems much too high:

Assuming $0.10/kWh, $1500 will buy you 15000 kWhs.

There are 365 * 24 = 8760 hours in a month.

Running constantly, you can use 1700 watts of power; which would run a huge server..

I did a quick calculation a while ago, and figured running a server at home cost around $15/month which Ontario's $0.05/kWh hydro rates.

Dec. 10th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
That calculation was based on a 750 watts load for the server equipment itself, which is pretty solid, I'll grant you, but also on some APC whitepaper where it seems the server equipment is on average only about 44% of the electric consumption. I'll also grant you that I didn't look up the whitepaper itself, but I've been dealing with bloody ACs, and I'd tend to find this credible.
Dec. 10th, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC)
Also, one of the things I've learned is that electricity is free in Canada. I'm paying something like $75 a month in electricity here, in a place that hardly ever goes below zero, with no dryer and just laptop computers.
Dec. 10th, 2006 06:58 pm (UTC)
Note: that's Second Life, not Second World. Rather different.

The good news is that Intel finally realized that the hyper-inefficient Pentium 4 was dumb (he said, looking at his toasty P4). All anyone seems to be optimizing for these days is performance/Watt, since that's all that data centers care about. And both the Core series and recent AMD chips are pretty danged efficient, with the Cores being especially noteworthy.

The bad news is that power use per computer is still going up on average (ignoring, again, the P4), even as performance increases.
Dec. 10th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
Ah, oopsie, yes, fixed.

Well, the P4s were a catastrophe, yes, but that doesn't make the others good.

That said, I think software has just as much to do with it. There are some really power-efficient processors, like the AMD Geode or the VIA C7, but if you'd run a GNOME desktop on one of those things, you'd just cry for your mother. That's kind of appalling.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )