Google Backs Green Computing, too

While Google’s recent eco kick has largely focused on issues like installing solar panels for its offices and offering biodiesel commuter shuttles to its employees, the search company just joined a broader green push with members of the computing industry. At Google HQ Tuesday morning,
Google, along with Intel and a dozen or so tech companies announced an initiative to drive more energy efficient computing.

It’s partly a ‘look at how green we are’ PR move, but if the plan can save as much energy and reduce as much green house gas emissions as the companies are suggesting — 54 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions cut per year, and a savings of $5.5 billion in energy costs — well, then we’re all for that. Google co-founder Larry Page made a quick appearance to push the plan, saying “this could really help the world.”

The purpose of the effort, called the Climate Savers Computing Initiative is to drive more energy-efficient computers, servers and power-saving software into the market, at a large enough volume to bring down the extra cost of the added technology. Intel’s Pat Gelsinger put the added cost of energy efficient technology at an additional $20 for desktop computers and $30 for a server cost increments, but said through scale and standardization they expect that cost to drop to zero over the next few years.

Energy usage in data centers has been soaring and companies have started to work on energy efficiency both as a green initiative and a cost cutting measure. Though, we’ll see if consumers are willing to stomache the original added cost for personal computers.

The group set a 90% efficiency target for its computing products, which is in contrast to the average desktop computer that wastes half of its energy, and servers that waste a third, according to Google’s Senior VP of Operations Urs Holzle.

Google’s focus on the broader industry’s green computing problem brings up the question of Google’s own carbon footprint and energy usage, which is largely generated by its massive data centers.

Google’s Energy Strategy Engineer Bill Weihl told us after the conference that the company is actively trying to make its data centers more energy efficient and is also looking at renewable energy options like solar thermal, wind and geothermal for its data centers. While Google wouldn’t disclose its carbon footprint to the audience, Weihl said the company had already had its footprint verified by a third party company and is actively working on reducing it.