The newsLINK Group - The Energy Needs Behind Your Favorite Toys

Editorial Library Category: Mining Topics: Mining, Energy Needs Title: The Energy Needs Behind Your Favorite Toys Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: You might consider your smart phone or your tablet to be essential equipment. But the fact is, they are still highly entertaining, especially when you have to wait. They provide you (and probably your children, even if they are barely able to walk) with essential items such as games, music, books, pictures, and shows. Editorial: The Energy Needs Behind Your Favorite Toys 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 2 Mills calls the Information-Communications- Technologies (ICT) ecosystem. You should know that this estimate isn’t as high or as low an estimate as it could be; it’s right at the midpoint. That ten percent is about 1500 TWh every year — TWh means Terawatt hour, and it is equivalent to a billion kilowatts — or, in other words, all the electricity generated by Germany and Japan. The ICT ecosystem is using as much electricity as the amount of power that lit the world in 1985. We are also using 50 percent more energy than the amount of energy required by global aviation. The Internet continues its explosive growth. The amount of annual Internet traffic in 2000 is now almost the same amount as one hour of Internet traffic today. We are now measuring our energy usage in terms of the zettabyte. (A zettabyte is the same as a billion terabytes. If you took the number 2, copied it 70 times, and multiplied all 70 together, that’s a zettabyte.) Where do we get all that power from? The short answer, today, is from coal. Coal is the main fuel source used to generate electricity, in the U.S. and in the world. In fact, coal was used to create 68 percent of the global energy that was produced during the last decade; forecasts tell us that it will supply at least half of the electricity we use during the next ten years as well. How can we possibly use that much energy? It’s because of data transfer. Moving bits, it turns out, is a bigger business than moving people and things. How much more? Would you believe twice as big a slice of the GDP as it takes to transport more physical items? At over $1 trillion, the information sector is the one part of the economy that is growing faster than anything else today. This shouldn’t really surprise you once you think about it. After all, it is an entire ecosystem of information and data. Here’s the breakdown: Data centers that house supercomputers on a warehouse scale. The power they need has nearly doubled in the last five years. Communications networks for broadband wired and wireless communication. Manufacturing facilities that make all the ICT hardware. The products themselves: wireless electronics, such as tablets and phones, and other electronic products such as televisions. We don’t know actual numbers for the amount of energy required; it takes a while to gather data, and by the time it’s gathered, it isn’t up-to-date anymore. What we do know is that we are underestimating the amount of energy being used, and our estimates are probably too low by as much as 1000 TWh. Wireless networks, which are the direction everything is going in, require more energy than legacy networks involving wires. That high-speed LTE architecture you see so heavily advertised all the time covers the same physical area but requires 60 times more energy. Coal is going to continue to be the fuel of choice for information technology because we don’t have any other fuel source else that provides enough energy. That may not be true forever, but it is true today. Coal currently provides 42 percent of the energy we use, with natural gas providing 25 percent, nuclear energy providing 19 percent, and renewables contributing 13 percent. The remaining one percent is energy from oil and other liquids. By 2040, some experts estimate that coal will only be providing 35 percent of our energy. That will still be more than any other fuel source. Surprise: you may never look at your electronic toys the same way again.