June 12, 2007 3:39 PM PDT

Google, Intel target efficient PC power supplies

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--The PC power chain has to got to get in shape, according to a group of technology companies.

Google, Intel and a host of PC and component companies on Tuesday unfurled the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, an effort to increase energy efficiency in PCs.

At the heart of the initiative is a push to get PC makers and consumers to adopt more efficient power supplies and voltage regulators. These two components, working together, convert AC power from a wall socket to 12-volt DC power that a computer uses.

Roughly 50 percent of the power delivered from a wall socket to a PC never actually performs any work, according to Urs Hölzle, Google fellow and senior vice president of operations. Half the energy gets converted to heat or is dissipated in some other manner in the AC-to-DC conversion. Around 30 percent of the power delivered to the average server gets lost, he added. The power in both cases is lost before any work is accomplished by a computer: later, even more energy is lost by PCs sitting idle, or as heat dissipated by other components.

By adopting more energy-efficient components, PCs and servers can utilize 90 percent or more of the electricity delivered to them. Google's own servers, in fact, are already 90 to 93 percent efficient.

"This is not a technology problem. We have power supplies with 90 percent efficiency shipping today," Hölzle said.

The problem is cost, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president of the Digital Enterprise Group at Intel. Making a PC more power efficient in this manner adds about $20 to its retail cost, and it adds about $30 to the cost of a server.

Part of the initiative is to figure out ways to eliminate this price difference, Gelsinger added. Some utilities, such as California's Pacific Gas and Electric are toying with giving consumers rebates for buying energy-efficient PCs. Volume production will eventually eliminate any additional costs, he said. Chances are, energy-efficient PCs and servers will take off in Japan, Europe and North America first, and later in more cost-conscious markets like China.

The organization will also work to lower power consumption by curbing PC idle time and improving other components. Right now, an un-optimized PC consumes about $30 a year in electricity to operate, said Gelsinger. An optimized PC can drop that figure to $10, he said.

Under Climate Savers' wish list, generic PCs and servers will be at least 90 percent efficient by 2010. If that goal can be met, these power-efficient servers and PCs will save 71.6 billion kilowatts of electricity in that year, said Gelsinger. The amount of electricity saved would result in 54 million tons of carbon dioxide not being put into the air that year.

PC makers are also trying to come up with ways to show how energy-efficient PCs can help a company's bottom line by lowering power consumption. Dell, for instance, sells an energy-efficient server. It costs $100 more than a typical, similar server, but the energy savings pay for the additional costs in a year, said Jon Weisblatt, senior manager of energy efficiency at Dell.

Weisblatt also added that Dell ships PCs with Windows Vista with the energy-efficient settings turned on. In general, most PC vendors ship their boxes with the efficiency setting turned off.

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low power computers
There is a company in the Netherlands that has already begun selling low power computers (20-25 watts): www.wesavepower.nl

It's one of the few websites out there where you actually get the power consumption figures of the pc up front.

Here's another US company that states the power consumption of its computers: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.yourtechoncall.com/special5.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.yourtechoncall.com/special5.html</a>

It's only with transparency that innovation is stimulated and people get the chance to make conscious consumer choices. OEMs, large and small, should start to inform consumers on power consumption figures, and not only market their megahertzes, gigabytes and inches.
Posted by Neven Acropolis (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Re: low power computers
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Posted by uk-forum (9 comments )
Link Flag
"im just dropping by,nice post!"

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Posted by shark12er (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who cares? Electricity is cheap.
Who cares? Electricity is cheap.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But the cost to the environment
to get that cheap electricity isnt.
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Link Flag
You must not live in California
Its not cheap for everybody.....
Posted by ittesi259 (727 comments )
Link Flag
Not when you have large server farms!
Spoken like a Truly Ignorant Republican.
Posted by Button Boy (71 comments )
Link Flag
where can a consumer opt in
If they exist, where can the forward looking consumer go to
improve the efficiency of their power supply. (In other words,
where can I buy a 90% efficient power supply today?)
Posted by flat1ron (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not positive, but...
I would guess PC Power &#38; Cooling. I'm not as "in the know" as I used to be, but when I built PCs, that's all we would use for energy-efficient and high-end systems.
Posted by SiliconAlchemy (3 comments )
Link Flag
$20 More...are you sure?
It's not about cheap electricity, it's about waste heat, especially in summertime...after all, why work the air conditioners harder?

Sign me up, where do I get one?
Posted by bugfreezer (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cost $20 more - Saves $20 a year
If the figures in the article are right then the added retail cost of a PC would be off set in the first year and there after it would be savings all the way.

The only thing is I don't believe it only cost $30 a year to run a computer.

But, it is a great initiative.
The cooler systems run the more reliable they are.

Also, as a previous poster stated it will put less pressure on air conditioning systems.
I knew of a company in the 90s who were making a decision to move to LCD montiors at £3,500 each or upgrade their air conditioning system. - Never heard the outcome but you can see how this can be an big issue.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
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$30 isn't the cost to RUN a PC...
...it's the cost of one sitting idle. Those, of course, are estimates and averages. Cali would cost more than Chicago, and using the PC all the time would cost more. Even then, however -- they really don't cost as much as everybody thinks. Turn off the HDTV once in awhile if you're concerned about energy costs.
Posted by SiliconAlchemy (3 comments )
Link Flag
I'd like one please
However, when I get tired of all this geekdom, I just shut my computer off and go for a trail bike ride. If more people did this, power consumption wouldn't be so high, and our parks would be crowded with bicyclists. ;)
Posted by Button Boy (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Anything to power this Acer laptop
When I bought this ACER laptop, nobody told me the battery life was about 20 minutes. So it has always run on the power cord. Can't even do benchmark tests with just the battery because it won't last long enough. Maybe with this, it could at least not waste what electricity i can get for it.

ACER = No battery life
Posted by ramudd (32 comments )
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