Running Green by Tate Cantrell
After finishing the 2012 Boston Marathon, I have some newfound vigor to push back on global warming. While scientists may have a tough time definitively tying the world’s increasing carbon emissions to my 32-deg-C slog from Hopkinton to Copley Square in Boston, there is a way that a company can save money on computing while doing its part to make sure that its advancements in information technology won’t provide any additional carbon-related pain to future sufferers on the Boston Marathon course. And that solution is unique.
In Iceland not only is there a robust power grid that is built to an industrial standard that far exceeds the typical residential and commercial requirements pressed upon local utility companies, but every joule and watt that crosses that grid is based upon power sources that are hydroelectrically or geothermally generated. And beyond that, Iceland has demonstrated that it is strategically committed to powering additional capacity from new, green energy sources that have already been demonstrated to produce power at costs that are shockingly low compared to mainland Europe.
The European Wind Energy Association reports that while Europe’s 2011 renewable generation totals are less than 30% of its overall power capacity mix, additional green power is being brought to market with new wind and PV solar projects among others. According to Mott MacDonald’s report for the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, you can expect power for wind projects to sell at a total cost of 0.14 USD or more per kWh for onshore and as much as 0.28 USD per kWh for offshore capacity. PV solar could be even more without government subsidies to support it. To put that in perspective, that’s around seven times the cost that standard power agreements can fetch on Iceland’s grid. And the pie chart for Iceland’s grid is pretty simply to draw – all green.
In the UK specifically, the challenges are even more extreme. The UK is committed to meet its legal obligations to achieve 15% of all energy (electricity, heat, and transport) from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. That kind of number may not make enough of a difference to drastically improve the plight of Olympic hopeful Kenyans, who choose Boston for a stage to impress their country’s observers, but it is a massive undertaking for the UK and it requires a plan for action. In order to establish a plan worthy of Her Majesty, the UK government chartered then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - Rt. Hon Ed Miliband MP, himself, with the task of producing the 2009 UK Renewable Energy Strategy. The lead scenario of the study suggests an increase in renewably generated electricity from 5.5% in 2009 to 30% in 2020. The leading advancements, as expected, will be in wind power – both on and off shore. No wonder Red Ed switched jobs to an easier task of bringing Labour back into action. All kidding aside – there is nothing in the UK Renewable Energy Strategy that provides UK companies with the assurances that energy will be in good supply and at a good cost.
However, there are other options for power sources that are renewable and are ready to serve Europe’s growing computational requirements. Just look North.
Green and affordable energy: I can feel my heat cramps subsiding already.