Data Centre

Nathaniel Horner, a research associate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses how much electricity is consumed by the data centers.

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Data Center Energy Consumption Modeling: A Survey by M Dayarathna and Yonggang Wen

Here’s How Much Energy Data Centers Consume by Yevgeniy Sverdlik

How A Data Center Works by SAP

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered how much electricity is used to power the data centers that make your digital life possible? On this week’s Energy Bite, Nathaniel Horner, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

NATHANIEL: Very few of us make it through a day without using email, browsing the Internet, streaming a TV episode, or buying something online. None of this would be possible without large groups of computers called data centers to store, process, and exchange all of this digital information. As you can imagine, the amount of data center traffic grows exponentially! In the early 2000s, data center electricity consumption also grew very quickly, but, over time, growth has slowed. Data centers use just under 2% of total U.S. electricity.

HOST: How is it possible for data center electricity consumption to grow so much more slowly than the amount of data we use?

NATHANIEL: Industry leaders like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook have improved the efficiency, design, and operation of their data centers. At the same time, more of our data is stored in huge, highly efficient data centers that make up “the cloud.”

HOST: Would you move your data to the cloud if it meant saving energy? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Wind Energy Coastal Region

Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses how coastal towns feel about offshore wind projects compared to onshore ones in their community?

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Offshore Wind Energy by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Onshore Wind Energy: What are the pros and cons? by The Guardian

Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy by the Department of Energy

Frequently Asked Questions About Windy Energy by the Department of Energy

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered how coastal towns feel about offshore wind projects compared to onshore ones in their community? On this week’s Energy Bite, Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

JULIAN: We found that residents of coastal communities strongly prefer having an onshore project in their town instead of an offshore project 5 miles at sea. We estimate that the value of this preference is equivalent to $5.6 million per year. The main objection to offshore was the changes to the ocean landscape, which many participants thought defined their community. This demonstrates the massive challenge that state governments will face when trying to build offshore wind projects, like Massachusetts which requires about 1,600 megawatts of offshore capacity in the next 10 years.

HOST: Does that mean that offshore wind development is doomed from the start?

JULIAN: No. A solution could be to locate offshore wind projects further from shore where they are not visible at least 30 miles out. Floating offshore turbines, as opposed to traditional turbines cemented to the seabed, could enable such projects. Our work suggests that the additional cost for floating offshore is worth it.

HOST: If you lived near the ocean, would you prefer an offshore or onshore wind farm? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Wind Energy Project Location

Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses where most people prefer to have wind energy projects located

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Siting wind farms requires choosing a proper location by American Wind Energy Association

Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy by the Department of Energy

Frequently Asked Questions About Windy Energy by the Department of Energy

Transcript

HOST: Where do most people prefer to have wind energy projects located? On this week’s Energy Bite, Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

JULIAN: We systematically tested with surveys whether people care more about having a wind project in a distant town compared to in their community. Surprisingly, we found that most people prefer having a wind project in their town, so long as there are economic benefits such as reduced energy bills and increased tax revenue to the local government. There is however a slight preference to avoid living within 1 mile of the project, but otherwise, people seem OK with a project in their town.

HOST: What is the minimum safe distance from a house to a wind turbine?

JULIAN: In Massachusetts, we found that a wind project must be built more than 1000 feet from residential buildings. This is to prevent damage due to freak accidents. Furthermore, it’s required that noise from the rotating blades at nearby homes can’t exceed 10 decibels above existing ambient noise levels. To put this in perspective, 30 decibels is a like a quiet whisper in a library.

HOST: Do you prefer wind projects be located in a certain area? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Wind Farm in Iowa

Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses what people think of the prospect of having a wind farm in their community.

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Among Many Successes, Some Community Wind Projects Experience New Challenges by the Department of Energy

Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy by the Department of Energy

Frequently Asked Questions About Windy Energy by the Department of Energy

Transcript

HOST: What do people think about the prospect of a wind farm in their community? On this week’s Energy Bite, Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

JULIAN: We interviewed and surveyed residents in coastal Massachusetts communities and found that the biggest factors people care about are economic benefits from the project and visual changes to the landscape.

HOST: So, why are these factors a concern?

JULIAN: Typical power plants, like coal or gas plants, can be tucked away in hidden locations that are not visible. However, wind turbines are typically over 400 feet tall, making a distinguishable mark on the landscape. Therefore, study participants wanted to know how the project would look, and whether they could see it from their home. Many participants also wanted to know the economic benefits both to them individually and to the town, like reduced energy bills and increased tax revenue to the local government. It’s important to point out that visual and economic benefits aren’t standardized by project nor are they regulated. So, it’s critical for communities to work with project developers to learn them.

HOST: Would you want a wind farm built in your community? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Wind Turbines

Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses the advantages of adding energy storage to wind projects.

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The Role of Energy Storage in Accessing Remote Wind Resources in the Midwest by Julian Lamy, Ineš L. Azevedo and Paulina Jaramillo

Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy by the Department of Energy

Frequently Asked Questions About Windy Energy by the Department of Energy

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered how energy storage, like large-scale batteries, could help make wind energy projects more economical? On this week’s Energy Bite, Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

JULIAN: Wind projects generate electricity intermittently depending on when the wind is blowing. In some hours, the project produces 100 % of its max capacity, but in other hours it produces 0 energy. But if the project could store energy, then it could deliver power more consistently throughout the day, for example, 50% of its capacity in each hour. One major advantage of this scenario is that the amount of transmission capacity needed for the project now reduces by 50% since the maximum power produced in each hour decreases. This can save millions of dollars in transmission investment costs for big wind projects.

HOST: So, when is this application of batteries economical?

JULIAN: Current costs for storage, like Aquion Energy’s batteries, are about 3 to 5 times what’s needed to make this application economical. So perhaps this would make sense in the future…but storage is a bit too expensive today.

HOST: Would you be willing to pay more for wind energy to incorporate the cost of energy storage? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org

wind energy project

Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses where wind energy projects should be built.

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Should We Build Wind Farms close to Load or Invest in Transmission to Access Better Wind Resources in Remote Areas? A Case Study in the MISO Region by Julian V. Lamy, Paulina Jaramillo, Inês L. Azevedo, and Ryan Wiser.

Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy by the Department of Energy

Frequently Asked Questions About Windy Energy by the Department of Energy

Transcript

HOST: Where should we build wind energy projects? On this week’s Energy Bite, Julian Lamy, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

JULIAN: The answer seems obvious; build where it’s windiest. The windier the location, the fewer wind turbines are needed to get a certain amount of energy. This efficiency can save millions of dollars in project costs. However, most of the best onshore wind resources in the U.S. are located far from where people live. Wind projects in these distant areas would likely require a lot of transmission lines over long distances, which would cost millions of dollars. Therefore, the tradeoff between these two factors is complicated.

HOST: OK, so what have you found in your research?

JULIAN: In the Midwestern electricity grid, which stretches East-West from Indiana to North Dakota, we found that it’s best to build wind farms in Minnesota and Iowa. Wind speeds in these states are high and they are relatively close to major population centers like the Chicago area, where most people live in this region. The additional transmission costs to build these wind projects aren’t prohibitively high, but the increased wind speeds save hundreds of millions of dollars.

HOST: Do you live or work near an onshore wind project? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Fuels

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses whether biofuels are good for the environment.

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Alternative Fuels Data Center by the Department of Energy

EPAct Transportation Regulation Activities by the Department of Energy

Automobile and truck fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas standards by R. Schnepf & B. D. Yacobucci

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered if biofuels are better than gasoline for the environment? On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: Biofuels, ethanol blended with gasoline to be used as an automobile fuel, are made from corn. They typically have lower air pollution emissions than gasoline when used as a transportation fuel. In the future, we may have biofuels that come from sources other than corn like switchgrass, which may have even lower air pollution emissions.

HOST: Sounds good! What are the downsides?

STEPH: Some researchers are concerned that changing the use of land could release some of the carbon dioxide that is stored in plants.  Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that causes climate change. Additionally, using land to grow corn for transportation fuel can have other environmental impacts, as it involves fertilizer use, energy and water resources. Finally, some fundamentally question whether or not it is appropriate at all to use corn for fuel when some people lack food.

HOST: Would you be willing to use a biofuel in your car? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

tankstelle bei nacht / petrol station at night

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses how one can make the right decision on whether a particular fuel is actually the cheapest option.

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Alternative Fuels Data Center by the Department of Energy

EPAct Transportation Regulation Activities by the Department of Energy

Is you car a flex-fuel vehicle? by Fuel Freedom Foundation

Transcript

HOST: What are the true prices of alternative fuels? On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: You might think buying a flex fuel vehicles that runs on E85, a fuel with 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, is a good idea because E85 appears to cost less than gasoline.  However, although you may think that is the case, this is in reality an apples to oranges comparison. Similarly to how tea and coffee have different caffeine content, not all fuels contain the same quantity of energy. This means to travel the same distance the amount of fuel, ad the cost per mile, may differ between a gasoline and E85 fueled vehicle. These differences influence whether or not purchasing a flex fuel difference makes sense from an economic perspective.

HOST: How can a driver make the right decision on whether a fuel is actually the cheapest option?

STEPH: To determine if fueling a flex fuel car will cost less, you need to calculate the gallon of gasoline equivalent price by considering the energy content of E85. For example, in 2016, the average price of E85 was $1.85 per gallon, but when you take into account the energy content, it is actually $2.40 per gasoline gallon equivalentDuring this same time period, the cost of gasoline was YYY, so the price difference is not that great. Visit the Energy Bite website to find out how to do the calculation if you’re curious.

HOST: Would you consider buying a flex fuel vehicle based on its fuel price? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

pumping gas

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses why fuel contains 10% ethanol and how it affects the quantity of imported fuel.

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Ethanol Fuel Basics by the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Overview and Issues by the Congressional Research Service

EPA Finalizes Regulations to Mitigate the Potential for Misfueling of Vehicles, Engines and Equipment with E15 by the Environmental Protection Agency

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered why there are signs on fuel pumps that read, “May contain up to 10% ethanol”? On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: The reason you see these signs at gas stations is because Congress has required that gasoline sold in the United States contain up to 10 percent ethanol. This policy aims to increase the nation’s energy security by using ethanol, a type of alcohol produced from plants. These plants are a renewable energy source grown within the United States, and thus decrease our reliance on imported energy. Ten percent was chosen because all vehicles can operate with that amount of ethanol in their gasoline.

HOST: How well has this worked to reduce the quantity of imported fuel?

STEPH: The quantity of imported petroleum fuel HAS decreased, but it is not solely because of this mandate. Rather, the reduction likely results from a decrease in fuel consumption. Even considering this, however, the nation’s drivers have not used as much ethanol as expected, as most cars cannot refuel with even higher percentages of ethanol assumed at the time of the legislation.

HOST: Do you care that your gasoline has up to 10% ethanol? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Flex fuel vehicles will help the alternative fuels market, which in turn will help reduce our carbon footprint

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses flex fuels and flex fuel vehicles, and how they can revolutionize the transportation sector.

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Flex Fuel Vehicles by U.S Department of Energy

Automobile and truck fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas standards by R. Schnepf & B. D. Yacobucci

Alternative Fuel Vehicle Adoption Increases Fleet Gasoline Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions under United States Corporate Average Fuel Economy Policy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standard by A. Jenn, Ineš Azevedo & Jeremy Michalek

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever noticed a “flex fuel” symbol on the back of a car and wondered what it meant?  On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: Conventional gasoline vehicles can only use up to 10% ethanol blended with gasoline. However, flex fuel vehicles can use fuel with up to 85% ethanol. Less than 10% of vehicles on the road are flex fuel. You may notice that most flex fuel vehicles are visually no different from conventional vehicles, except for a yellow gasoline tank cap, though internally there are engine modifications.

HOST: Why are there flex fuel vehicles on the road?

STEPH: Automakers produce and sell flex fuel vehicles because government regulations categorize them as fuel-efficient alternative vehicles. The companies obtain credits and use them to counterbalance the less efficient vehicles they produce. Although flex fuel vehicles can consume fuel with 85% ethanol, most are only fueled with conventional gasoline with 10% ethanol. This is due to consumer choice, the lack of stations and pricing.  So although companies get credits, the impact may not be as expected.

HOST: Would you buy a flex fuel vehicle? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.