We all know that using the power management facilities on our PCs is a sensible idea to reduce energy usage, but it's often hard to conceptualise just how much difference doing that can make. The University of Sydney introduced automated power management technologies into its student labs, and saw huge reductions in its environmental impact as a result.
Picture by Philip Choi
The University has more than 100 lab facilities spread over its various facilities, and in many of those locations the PCs were left to run for 24 hours a day, even though students could only access them between 8am and 6pm. The reasoning behind that was twofold — patching the systems out of hours required them to be on, and there weren't staff in place to switch the systems off. But the end result was PCs that were running at near full clip all the time while no-one was using them for two-thirds of the day.
Geoffrey Brown, director of faculty services for ICT at the university, explained how the problem was tackled during an Intel press lunch in Sydney today. By introducing Intel vPro systems, which allow remote access and automated power management, the university was able to automate shutting down PCs outside of lab hours while still enabling patching and other remote management tasks. By the university's own calculations, the effect of shutting down just 3 PC systems in a lab out of hours over a year was equivalent in emissions term to taking a car off the road for the same time period.
Brown admitted he was sceptical when those results were first presented to him, so he set engineering students the task of poking holes in the data. They couldn't find any flaw in the analysis. You're unlikely to be running thousands of machines in labs, but the same principle applies: not leaving your PC running when you don't need it will make a measurable difference.