Episode 178: How much electricity do data centers consume?

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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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.

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