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Intel and Google go Bono over power supplies

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Intel and Google have taken it upon themselves to lead yet another "green computing" project.

Executives from the two companies today unveiled the Climate Savers Computing Initiative at the Gulag in Mountain View, California. At its most basic level, the program will focus on encouraging consumers and businesses to buy computers with more efficient power supplies. A wide range of hardware and software manufactures have agreed to back the effort, including IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, AMD, Canonical, Yahoo, EDS and PG&E.

The computing industry has long shipped very inefficient power supplies to fuel PCs and servers. In many cases, close to 50 per cent of the power is lost while traveling from a wall socket to the actual machine. Computer makers have opted to ship less efficient power supplies, aiming to lessen the costs of their hardware.

With energy costs soaring and it being hip to be green, the hardware crowd now wants you to pay more for better equipment.

For example, members of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative have pledged to produce and purchase PCs with 80 per cent efficient power supplies between July 2007 and 2008. That efficiency requirement increases to 85 per cent through June 2009, 88 per cent through June 2010 and 90 per cent through June 2011.

The server crowd must meet a target of 85 per cent efficient power supplies between July 2007 and 2008, 89 per cent between July 2008 and June 2009 and 92 per cent between July 2009 and June 2010.

Today, you can expect to pay up to $20 extra per PC and $30 extra per server for the better power supplies.

By creating a coalition dedicated to driving demand for the better units, the vendors involved with the Climate Savers Computing Initiative expect those prices to fall.

"As you move the volume point, the premiums disappear," said Intel server chief Pat Gelsinger.

To hear the likes of Google and Intel bang on about green computing is somewhat rich. Intel, for example, spent years increasing the clock speeds and energy draws of its chip with little concern for overall power usage. Only recently has the vendor dedicated itself to producing more energy efficient processors.

Similarly, Google is busy building the world's largest data centers and has enjoyed breaks from legislators in states such as Oklahoma that allow the ad broker to hide its energy consumption data. Google executives also travel the world in large, commercial planes equipped with king-sized beds and hammocks.

But, as Gelsinger points out, there's really no reason for consumers and businesses not to purchase the better gear.

"This is not a technology problem," he said. "It really is an industry choice."

Consumers willing to spend extra for the better power supplies will almost certainly see the money returned to them in the form of lower energy bills.

A number of green computing programs are already underway, including the much-publicized white paper production center known as the Green Grid. Google today revealed that it will join the Green Grid, and Intel, a founding member, has pledged to stick with it as well. We're told all of the green computing programs are complementary.

Consumers that buy so-called Energy Star systems in the US will be meeting the 2007 standards set by the new consortium. In addition, the major server makers all offer at least some systems that meet the guidelines as well.

If all goes according to plan, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative could cut global CO2 emissions by 54 million tons per year by 2010. That's equivalent to the CO2 output of 11m cars.

You'll find a footnote rich FAQ here and a list of the fully committed here. ®

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