Did the energy consumption of search engines inspire Google's patented solar invention?
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According to a study from 2009, performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, and a report by the industry analyst firm Gartner said that the global IT industry generated the same amount of greenhouse gasses as the world’s airlines — about 2% of the world’s total CO2 emissions.
An article in the Times Online explains the energy used by IT in some shocking terms. It explains that maintaining an Avatar for a year in Second Life, the virtual reality game, uses about as much electricity as the average Brazilian living for a year.
A Google search where you find what you’re looking for in a few seconds uses much less energy, but a search taking a couple of minutes of research is what really bumps up the energy consumption. The reason a longer search is so energy intensive is that data centers are energy hogs, and a Google search doesn’t tap just one data bank but instead goes out to several servers that could be thousands of miles apart, all processing your search simultaneously.
While Google claims their searches use less energy than the study suggests, they are dealing with the issue head on. Google and other IT giants are using their considerable financial and intellectual might to decrease the damaging effects of their own industry and to lead the way towards a cleaner energy future. Today in Alternative Energy News, an article titled “Google Ups Research and Development to Make Solar Cheaper than Coal” explains a new invention patented by Google that utilizes a camera to control a bank of mirrors that concentrate sunlight on a receiver. The controller receives information from the camera based on the brightness of the pixels produced by the camera, and makes micro-adjustments to the mirrors to maintain maximum energy production.