I bought an electro-voltaic briefcase in the UK to trickle-charge the leisure battery in our Mazda Bongo. Never really needed it that much, as we could hook up to the grid most places we went, and on the road the motor charged it up. I’m more and more convinced that the most efficient way of reducing the energy footprint is not to produce energy oneself, but reduce the energy we use. (a ‘bah!’ from my partner, no doubt, having just seen our latest energy bill…).
I am putting together an intel atom-based server, to run debian to manage file and print serving. Apparently the atom and board draws about 1/10th the power of a normal cpu & board, which means a reduction in power from about 300W to 30W; cpu needs no fan, it can be passively cooled. It won’t deliver HD quality video or fast-action gaming, but I am not bothered about that anyway, and this is fine for a machine that usually sits in the background humming away and by nature is switched on all day.
Netbooks are the same, as they use the atom, they don’t deliver lightning fast stunning results, but are a lower drain on power that laptops and notebooks. There is a whole cult around low-energy computing now, I have discovered, where people try to construct the most-energy efficient PC’s, rather than the biggest, fastest, etc. There is a financial up-side as well, obviously, because a PC left on all year can cost $200-$300 – a computer that uses 1/10 of that power will mean considerably reduced power bills. I usually have on average about ten on the go at any one time, including laptops, tablets, etc. Each one is adapted as a different tool for something or other, and some are getting on for ten years old, and have to be turned on and off – because older computers tend to be less efficient. I was going to use one of these as a file and print server, but over a year, it worked out the same to get hold of a second-hand atom desktop and convert it to my own use ($200).
So, here is a little box I can leave on, and have Apache, MySQL, and (hopefully) a Windows Virtual Machine all sitting on there, available for whenever I need them, available on the laptop from the comfort of my couch via VNC. Or even abroad using a VPN client on the netbook (and even an Android mobile phone now can run a desktop client for Windows or Linux!) The one I got has dual cores, each capable of managing two threads, and 2GB RAM, expandable to 4GB, and 1.6GHz is not a bad speed for something capable of parallel processing and multi-threading. anyway, just a thought. By far the most efficient way to be energy efficient is to reduce the amount of energy you use before you start trying to generate it.
We got solar water panels fitted on our house in the UK, which was nice, but we reckon it would have taken ten years of use to pay them off – although they did help us get a 100+ year-old house the highest energy rating it was capable of without feeding electricity back into the grid. I do wonder, in hindsight, whether the energy used to manufacture solar panels, storage batteries, and electro-voltaic cells is ever going to be offset by the amount of energy generated and saved by these products. Something at the back of my mind nags me and says it won’t. There’s a law about that in physics somewhere, I am sure.
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