Thursday, July 17, 2008

Data Center Grade Energy Efficiency for the Rest of Us

James Hamilton has an interesting set of slides on his blog focusing on ways of improving efficiency of power consumption in large data centers. He examines factors end-to-end, from utility power distribution all the way down to server hardware itself. Data center size, geographic distribution, load characteristics, hardware profiles, power redundancy, etc. are all important variables to consider in the large data center space. An incredibly fascinating read.

What’s also interesting about what’s going on in the data center space is that it reflects in many ways a more laser-like focus on energy efficiency than one would typically encounter elsewhere. Given the scale that data center folks operate on, they’re thinking about the problems that many other types of organizations haven’t even dreamt of (yet). There’s a lot we can learn from what’s going on in that space, and perhaps even a few things large-, medium- and small-organizations can do to help increase their energy efficiency.

Of course, one thing I’ve always thought made sense was to “carpool” some types of server applications onto services like Amazon Web Services or Google Application Engine that are often served in-house (I’m not specifically endorsing any of these services – just throwing out a few possibilities). From an ecological standpoint, all of the energy (no pun intended) that folks who run data centers put into reducing power and cooling costs really does result in a significantly more efficient operation. Running your own application code in someone else’s data center (“carpooling” with many other applications that have been virtualized or are otherwise able to run well-isolated, securely and in parallel) means less energy wasted in your own data center (or more often, server room) in terms of power, cooling, and idle CPU cycles. This form of computing really is coming into fruition as a bona fide utility.

Naturally, not every application or service can be “carpooled” but given the excellent and in-depth work that’s been done in the data center, why replicate or re-invent the wheel? When planning or building new applications, in today’s world, it may make sense from both an ecological and economical standpoint (think of the reduced capital and operating expenses) to consider “carpooling” applications in an energy-efficient data center.

Al Gore Speaks Today on U.S. Energy Policy

A New York Times article from earlier today reported on a global warming speech Al Gore made in Washington D.C. According to the article, Gore called on Americans to work towards completely quitting our reliance on fossil fuels within the next ten years. The speech echoed Gore’s consistent messaging regarding the life-threatening danger the world is currently facing due to global warming, and also highlighted how the goal to end our use of fossil fuels “is achievable, affordable and transformative.”

A couple of interesting scientific facts re-stated in the Times are highlighted below:

“’We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet,’ Mr. Gore said. ‘Every bit of that’s got to change.’

And it can change, he said, citing some scientists’ estimates that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth in 40 minutes to meet the world’s energy needs for a year, and that the winds that blow across the Midwest every day could meet the country’s daily electricity needs.”

To read more about this speech, visit New York Times or Al Gore’s website.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Did you know utility companies will pay your organization to use less energy?

Because of soaring energy prices, there are a large number of utility companies across North America that will actually provide rebates to organizations who implement tools to help reduce energy consumption. In fact, Verdiem’s SURVEYOR software is recognized by many utility companies across the country, and the use of this software frequently enables organizations to receive rebates from utility companies in their area.

A few examples of utility companies that rebate include:

· Avista
· BCHydro
· Bonneville Power Administration
· Hawaii Electric Company
· Idaho Power
· Manitoba Hydro/Saskatchewan Power
· Nevada Power/Sierra Pacific Power
· New York Power Authority
· New York State Energy Research &
· Development Authority (NYSERDA)
· Northeast Utilities
· Oregon Energy Trust
· PacifiCorp (primarily Utah)
· PG&E
· Puget Sound Energy
· Sacramento Municipal Utility District
· San Diego Gas & Electric
· San Francisco Energy Watch
· Seattle City Light
· Silicon Valley Power
· Snohomish PUD
· Southern California Edison
· The United Illuminating Company
· Wisconsin Focus on Energy
· Xcel Energy (Minnesota and Colorado)

As a point of reference, these rebates are similar to the consumer rebates offered by organizations like Energy Star. Learn more here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is pricey gasoline the best solution to global warming?

When teachers are educated about the best way to instruct a diverse group of students, they are taught to use a variety of different methods to ensure they are properly addressing dissimilar learning styles.

For those of us that track and participate in the fight against global warming, we are sometimes overly idealistic about what motivates people to work on decreasing their carbon footprint. For some, the motivation is as simple as helping the environment. For others, there has to be a more tangible reward involved.

A New York Times article from the weekend, “At $100 for Tank of Gas, Some Choke on ‘Fill It’,” highlights the continuously rising gas prices and the heavy financial burden placed upon owners of larger vehicles to fill their tanks. The article discusses how many owners of large SUVs are now looking for alternatives.

So perhaps we should look to the way teachers use a variety of teaching methods and apply that to educating people about the damage global warming is causing our planet. Everyone has a different tipping point. To assume that all people are inspired by the same information is both naïve and dangerous, as it inevitably means certain groups of people will not understand the implications that global warming could ultimately have on their lives.

To combat this, it is essential for those of us doing the educating to cater to a variety of different audiences – the environmentalist, the intellectual, the businessperson, to name just a few. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and keeping that in mind will ultimately make us more successful at our endeavors.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

EPA Announces Top 25 Purchasers of Green Energy - Intel & Pepsi Lead

The Green Power Partnership, a voluntary EPA program for organizations who buy green power as a way to reduce their environmental impact, has announced the Top 25 Purchasers of Green Energy.

1. Intel Corporation
2. PepsiCo
3. U.S. Air Force
4. Wells Fargo & Company
5. Whole Foods Market
6. The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc.
7. Johnson & Johnson
8. Cisco Systems, Inc.
9. City of Dallas, TX
10. HSBC North America
11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
12. City of Houston, TX
13. Kohl's Department Stores
14. University of Pennsylvania
15. Starbucks
16. DuPont Company
17. Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts
18. U.S. Department of Energy
19. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
20. PepsiAmericas, Inc.
21. Vail Resorts, Inc.
22. New York University
23. NatureWorks LLC
24. Staples
25. The World Bank Group


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Green Up Seattle!

A couple weeks ago, we got our power bill from Seattle City Light that also included an insert marketing the “Green Up!” program for SCL customers. Here are some details straight from the website:

What is Green Up?
Green Up is Seattle City Light's voluntary green power program for residential and business customers. By enrolling in Green Up, customers purchase green power for a portion of their electricity use and demonstrate their support for wind power and other new renewable energy projects in the Northwest. Choosing green power reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, improves air quality and helps reduce the growth of climate-warming emissions. The Green Up program is Green-e certified and fulfills LEEDTM Project green power requirements.

How does Green Up work?
Green Up customers make voluntary payments on their electricity bill to cover the slightly higher cost of producing and integrating renewable energy into the Northwest grid. These funds are used to acquire Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) equal to the amount of customer demand. Participating in Green Up does not change how Seattle City Light transmits and distributes electricity to your home or business.

How do I sign up?
Residential customers may purchase green power in increments of 25%, 50% or 100% of their electricity use for $3, $6 or $12 per month.

We are planning to begin purchasing green power at our house, and whether you live in the city of Seattle or elsewhere, you might also want to research ways to begin supporting renewable energy initiatives.