[LINK] Google debunks search energy usage claims

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Jan 13 09:08:48 AEDT 2009

Google debunks search energy usage claims
By Ian Williams
13 January 2009 06:44AM

Google has denied claims that just two searches on its site uses the 
same amount of energy as boiling a kettle.

Recent research by Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross 
suggested that each Google search produces around seven grams of CO2, 
roughly half that produced by boiling a kettle.

"Google operates huge datacentres around the world that consume a great 
deal of power," said Wissner-Gross. "A Google search has a definite 
environmental impact."

However, Google rubbished the findings in a recent blog posting, 
providing its own substantially lower figures, and adding that during 
the time it takes to do a Google search "your own personal computer will 
use more energy than Google uses to answer your query".

"Google is fast - a typical search returns results in less than 0.2 
seconds, " wrote Urs Hölzle, senior vice president for operations at the 
search firm.

"Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query the 
servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a 
second. Together with other work performed before your search even 
starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003kWh of 
energy per search, or 1kJ."

According to Hölzle, this is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy 
the human body burns in 10 seconds. "In terms of greenhouse gases, one 
Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2," he wrote.

Hölzle also pointed out that Google is investing heavily in greater 
energy efficiency as well as cleaner energy sources.

"In 2008 our philanthropic arm, Google.org, invested $45m [£30m] in 
breakthrough clean energy technologies. And last summer, as part of our 
Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative, we created an internal 
engineering group dedicated to exploring clean energy," he added.

However, Wissner-Gross maintained that our increasingly connected 
lifestyles could begin to take their toll. Just viewing a web site 
generates between 0.02g and 0.2g of CO2 per second, depending on the 
amount of rich media embedded on the page, he claimed.

The environmental impact of the IT industry has been a matter of much 
debate in recent years, with analyst firm Gartner calculating that the 
industry accounts for around two per cent of the world's energy usage.

Several initiatives have been created to try to minimise the impact of 
IT on the environment, including the WEEE directive, which controls the 
disposal of electronic goods in Europe; CO2stats, which Wissner-Gross 
helped to create; and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which 
Google co-founded in 2007.

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Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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