Wind and solar farms should power computers

A Cambridge computer expert believes his plan to power computers with wind and solar energy could reduce carbon emissions.

As business carbon emissions continue to increase, a new plan to power computers with wind and solar energy could help limit the damage.

Cambridge University researcher Professor Andy Hopper developed his plan to reduce the ever-increasing carbon emissions from IT by powering computers with energy from renewable sources in distant locations.

The energy needed to power computers is very portable, and therefore could be created from solar or wind energy in one location and transferred to computers in another, faraway place, The Guardian reported.

"Computing power can be moved around the world and can be done anywhere in the world where the energy is available," Hopper said in a speech at the Royal Society on Monday.

Since it is easier and more efficient to transfer information than to transfer power across great distances, Hopper suggests moving server centres closer to the source of the energy.

The computer expert envisions "server farms" located in remote areas with ample wind or solar energy, connecting to computers around the country.

By taking advantage of renewable power that is going unused instead of creating a new supply of energy, Hopper's plan could save money for the companies involved, in addition to reducing their carbon footprint.

"The whole point is that we are using energy that would otherwise be lost. It is more efficient, more appropriate, cheaper to use it in situ," Hooper said.

Office equipment (about a third of which is computers) creates 15 per cent of carbon emissions in a typical office, according to UK government figures. Business computing in the UK creates 2.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year, while the nation overall emits just over 150 million tonnes of carbon every year.

However, other research suggests that businesses are confused about the real environmental impact of IT.

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