Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Avoiding rolling blackouts this summer

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. And thanks to the warmer weather and associated increases in energy consumption, it’s also the unofficial start of what’s become the annual “brown out” season for businesses and households alike. In fact, some are already predicting this year could bring the highest risk of rolling blackouts in years.

Brown outs, of course, refer to temporary power reductions and outages across a metro area due to electricity demand that exceeds a local utility’s ability to generate enough power.

Summer months typically see the majority of urban brown outs, especially in markets that crank up the air conditioning to escape the summer heat.

Late last month, the California Independent System Operator predicted the risk of electricity blackouts especially in Southern California could be more than triple that of previous years due to a lack of supply to meet expected demand.

Similar conditions, as well as the potential for wildfires and continued drought conditions in the Southeast, could tax our power grids even further.

This year’s summer season, unfortunately, could offer the perfect storm for brown-outs and rolling black-outs:

  • 1) Many meteorologists are predicting a warmer than usual summer (thank you, la nina)
  • 2) Energy prices (for electricity, not just gas) continue to rise
  • 3) Our per-capita summer energy use will increase, as usual, due to A/C usage
  • 4) Recession-like conditions will make paying for that increased power consumption even more painful – especially for large enterprises

How can organizations mitigate the impact of these conditions?

The first step is to understand your power consumption habits. Use monitoring tools to know when your own peak demand periods exist, and map that against the largest grouped contributors of energy in your organization. For most large organizations, the largest energy consumer is the PC network (which, according to Gartner, represents 40 percent of an organization’s IT carbon footprint).

When you know your organization’s power consumption patterns, you can take steps to intelligently reduce that volume. For example, two-thirds of the power a typical PC uses is wasted (when the PC is on at full-power but not in use). PC power management software can reduce that power by up to 60 percent.

The power requirement and cost impact is even greater in the summer months, when fully-active PCs have a more than material impact on the temperature within buildings, thereby requiring even higher air conditioning bills (and power requirements).

Some Verdiem customers report that putting PCs into lower power states when they’re not in use not only cuts their PC-related power bill in half, but have reported they also can cut the summer air conditioning bill by 5-15 percent.

Those two reductions alone can have a significant impact on an organization’s summer power requirements. And that will make your utility very, very happy (no wonder more than 30 of them nationwide offer rebates for power reduction initiatives such as SURVEYOR).

1 comment:

eredux said...

Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State energy consumptions, demographics and State energy offices.