New PC gear could reap $1.8 billion in energy savings

You want some energy savings? For every 100 computers a business replaces with computers meeting the government’s most recent Energy Star specification, it will save $175 per year on energy bills and more than $670 over the lifetime of the computers, the Environmental Protection Agency said today. 

In fact if every U.S. business and homeowner replaced old computers with new Energy Star qualified models, the country would save more than $1.8 billion in energy costs over the next five years and avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 2.7 million cars, the EPA said.

The EPA created the Energy Star program in 1992 as an effort to get manufacturers to make greener products. Products that have earned the Energy Star designation prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the government, the EPA said. In the PC world most vendors from Acer and Apple to Levano have qualifying products. Since stringent new requirements for Energy Star computers became effective in July, more than 35 manufacturers have demonstrated their commitment to fight climate change by offering products that save energy.  

The new specification establishes efficiency requirements for all modes of operation, which ensures energy savings when a computer is active and running basic applications, as well as when it is on stand-by. Newly qualified computers must also include an internal power supply that is at least 80% efficient. Under the new specification, only the most energy-efficient computer equipment, including desktop and notebook (or laptop) computers, game consoles, integrated computer systems, desktop-derived servers and workstations, can earn the Energy Star label, the EPA said.

There are over 180 million computers in the US that consume nearly 58 billion kWh per year or about two percent of the nation's annual electricity consumption, the EPA said.

The EPA has been targeting the electricity-gulping x86-based server as the first target of the EPA’s attention. At the recent AFCOM Data Center World show the EPA’s Energy Star program manager Andrew Fanara said: “Volume servers are probably the largest consumers of energy. They are not the most efficient in terms of their energy use and thus are the biggest opportunities going forward." 

 To help spell out just how much power servers draw, the EPA plans to develop — as soon as year-end —Energy Star standards for servers that will let vendors test for energy efficiency and computing performance and brand their servers with Energy Star ratings, which were previously reserved for consumer appliances.

The EPA also will release recommendations for more efficient server power supplies. Between 1kWh and 1.5 kWh of power can be saved for every 1kWh saved at the plug, according to the EPA. The agency is working with a group called the Climate Savers Computing Initiative to develop power supplies that are 90% more efficient than earlier models and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons per year, potentially saving more than $5.5 billion in energy costs.

With energy efficiency in mind there are some cool data center projects going on.  For example, network World recently wrote about the San Diego Supercomputing Center's $32 million data-center expansion, slated for completion next July, which is designed to be energy efficient from the ground up.  The 80,000-square-foot building will double the size of the SDSC's facilities; besides an additional 5,000 square feet of data-center space, the expansion will house classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and a 250-seat auditorium.  Under development since 2003, the building has an energy-efficient displacement ventilation system that uses the natural buoyancy of warm air to provide improved ventilation and comfort; exterior shade devices, such as awnings, to control temperatures by blocking the sun; and natural ventilation (the windows in the building will open) to save on energy.  

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