CNET News published a story on 9 December 2005 titled Power could cost more than servers, Google warns.
A Google engineer published an article in the September issue of Association for Computing Machinery’s Queue. He warned that power might eventually cost more than the hardware itself, which is quite a concern for an organization with as many “boxes” as Google has in its infrastructure.
Luiz Andre Barroso, the Google engineer, is agreeing with Apple computer’s Steve Jobs, who talked earlier this year about the importance of “performance per watt” as a metric of good microprocessor design. Mr. Barroso used to design chips for Digital Equipment Corporation and probably focused part of his efforts on improvements to this aspect of chip performance.
A complimentary technological path might also be an effort to reduce the cost of electricity, so that the total cost of operating whatever chips the industry can design goes down. In an era with high oil, coal and natural gas prices, atomic fission using heavy metals (uranium, thorium and plutonium) is one available path for that kind of development. (I am sure that you are shocked to see me write that.)
Today’s operating nuclear power plants in the United States have average operating costs of approximately 1.65 US dollar cents per kilowatt hour. In contrast – at Friday’s closing price of $15.02 per million BTU (Henry Hub on the NYMEX) for natural gas – a gas fired electrical power generator has a fuel cost of about 12 US dollar cents per kilowatt hour.
That comparison is actually quite biased against nuclear fission – the fission power plant O&M cost includes ALL operating costs including decommissioning cost contribution, labor, fuel, maintenance, and waste storage. The gas power plant cost from above includes JUST FUEL and it is still more than 6 times as high!
In California, the land of fruits, nuts, and technology companies like Google, more than 60% of the electricity is produced in power plants that burn natural gas and the state has a law that prevents building new nuclear power plants until a “final” solution to spent fuel storage is implemented by the federal government.
No wonder Google engineers are so concerned about power consumption.
Since they are very smart fellows, perhaps they should recommend to their company executives that the company consider deploying some of its assets into companies that are focused on developing lower cost, simple, reliable, atomic engines that can turn standard electrical power generators. IMHO, a prime candidate would be:
Disclosure – I am the same Rod Adams that founded Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. in September 1993 and I remain the President of that tiny company.