Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
September 29th, 2006

Sergey and Larry Do the Right Thing

Sergey Brin and Larry Page are of course the founders of Google.  That fact, in and of itself would be enough to respect them and praise them.  Simply based on influence, Google has become practically oracular in today’s world.  Not since the oracle of Delphi stood astride the rift in the ground has something had such power of affecting perception of the present and the future.  At least sometimes it feels that way.

When Sergey and Larry — and I use their first names with great respect, as when said together everyone knows who is being discussed — speak, a whole lot of people listen.  What they have spoken about this week is to be praised by all of us who realize that solving our energy problem is the single most important issue of today. For those that missed it, the two of them came out very strongly for creating a simpler and much more efficient electrical standard for computers.

Standing on a white paper by two Google engineers, Urs Holzle and William Weihl, entitled “High-Efficiency power Supplies for Home Computers and Servers” the founders of Google are lending their considerable weight to the notion that all computers can be electrically wired in such a way as to save billions of dollars in energy costs annually.

Evidently, at the birth of the PC in 1981, standard power supplies, which converts high-voltage alternating current to low-voltage direct current was required to provide “multiple output voltage” which is no longer necessary with today’s PCs.  The Google plan calls for a shift to a single 12-volt standard, a simpler design that would achieve much greater efficiencies.  Modern PC design has evidently shifted the control of voltage to the motherboards making the old multiple voltage requirements unnecessary. [Note to readers: I am not an electrical engineer, hence the use of the word ‘evidently’, so lets move on together.]

The Google white paper states that the opportunity for power savings is enormous.  By deploying the new power supplies in 100 million PCs running eight hours a day, it would be possible to save 40 billion kilowatt-hours in three years, a saving of some $5 billion.  Some of you may recall that last January Larry Page spoke at the CES Show and urged the industry to adopt a single power supply standard for all portable wireless devices.  Evidently  AC/DC power chargers account for more than 2 percent of America’s electricity consumption and more efficient design could cut this usage by 50%, resulting in a savings of close to $3 billion. 

An expected additional benefit of this effort is that it will lead to thinking about other areas where rethinking tradition bound ways of doing things could result in great energy savings.  The areas of housing, automotive and other electronics come to mind. Hopefully the example that Sergey and Larry are setting will be followed by other high profile visionaries and leaders.  While there are a few posts or a long article to be written about how Google may well be the bridge corporation between 20th century corporate models and the new ones of the future, it is enough to salute S & L for their stance on this off the radar issue.  You have a great platform, and you are using it for the benefit of all of us.  Thanks guys!

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