Silent Night…

Sleepy computer mouseIt has taken a while to get the technical details right, but at long last iSolutions is able to put all 1800 of its Common Learning Space PCs (the ones in lecture halls and workstation areas) to sleep overnight. Hallelujah!  The problem was that although they went to sleep without difficulty, some of them just wouldn’t wake up and needed to be physically switched off and on again. I know from bitter experience that re-starting a CLS PC takes several minutes, especially as it always wants to to install Windows updates, new software and virus definitions if it has been switched off for a few days. It is all very frustrating if you have a roomful of students and no time to waste. As a consequence, the old power scheme merely powered down the display after 30 minutes, reducing their consumption from 80W to 47W – so a 50% saving, but still a lot of wasted electricity.

Now, after thorough testing, those technical issues have been overcome, and the new power plan has just been rolled out to those 1800 PCs. The energy savings are hard to calculate due to the unpredictable use of the PCs, but I used my PC power saving Excel spreadsheet to estimate the savings based on the following assumptions:

  • the PCs are ‘in use’ from 9am-9pm (some workstation rooms are open later, some close earlier, and most teaching rooms are unused after 6pm)
  • while they are ‘in use’ they are actually only used for 75% of that time (ie 9 hours, which I suspect is being generous)
  • they wake up and reboot at 2am to install software updates, but are asleep again at 2.30am.
  • they wake up and reboot at 6am, but are asleep again by 6.30. This is needed because some software requires a reboot to complete installation.
  • they stay asleep until used, so will remain asleep across weekends and holidays.
  • I ignored minor savings generated by the new scheme shaving a few minutes off the screen and hard disk sleep times.

I calculate that the annual savings across all 1800 PCs are 473 MWh of electricity, equivalent to 258 tonnes of CO2 and a cost saving of £57,000. Merry Christmas!

Sleepy mouse image by wilkolak3dh from DeviantArt

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IT Infrastructure Investment Programme (IIP)

iSolutions has created a mini-website to inform its users of its major Infrastructure Investment Programme. Lots of this work has been in-progress for some time, but in the context of Green IT, the Virtualisation and the new highly efficient Data Centre are the key items.

The virtualised services run on fewer physical servers which will require less space in the new data centre and will save 400,000KW of electricity power per annum, saving £4.8M over 5 years.

These power savings equate to a carbon reduction of 7000 tonnes of CO2 over 5 years (the equivalent of driving a 1.8l Ford Focus 42,000,000 miles).


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Blackout infographic and IT Power Management policy

Southampton Blackout infographicAn overview of the results of the Southampton Blackbout event on 27th April is now available, and includes a name and shame building-by-building map showing which had the most PCs left un-neccessarily on. Poor old Building 25 (where I used to work) comes out worst with a shocking 89.3% of PCs left on… but it has several huge public workstation clusters on the ground floor, so that is no refection on the green credentials of staff working on the top two floors! So, as always, statistics need to be approached with caution…

After much fine-tuning, the University’s IT Switch off and Power Management Policy June 2012 has also been published, and provides clear guidance to all staff on the steps they should take to avoid wasting energy. It carries the authority of Malcom Ace, the University’s Chief Operating Officer, showing the importance of this initiative.

On the same day that these two documents were published, we also learned that everyone involved in the Southampton Blackout has been jointly awarded a VC Award. Congratulations to all concerned; other institutions are showing great interest in this event and plans are underway for a UK Blackout in 2013!

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A personal view of the Southampton Blackout

The headline result of the Southampton Blackout exercise have just been published, and show that a determined effort to switch off all office IT equipment and lights produces a 6% saving compared with an average of the four previous weekends. That is 16,000 kWh of electricity, equivalent to £1600 and 7 tonnes of carbon. The question is, how can staff be encouraged to adopt that ‘switch off’ behaviour as a matter of course?

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On the evening of Friday 27 April, a team of volunteer staff and students will move through every building on the University’s Highfield Campus, switching off all non-essential electrical equipment in offices. The aim of the event is to highlight how a small change in behaviour (switching items off when you leave work) can lead to significant energy savings. This not only saves the University money, but will help us achieve our ambitious carbon reduction target of 20% by 2020.

We will be able to compare the energy used that weekend with equivalent data from the preceding weeks, and that will tell us how much could be saved if all non-essential equipment was switched off.  Full details of the event are given below:

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LED or LCD displays: the cost savings equation

lenovo L2251 eco displayA colleague asked me if it was worth switching from LCD displays to the newer, lower power but more expensive LED variety. Good examples of 22″ widescreen displays from our usual supplier are:

Using my PC power saving spreadsheet and assuming typical ‘office’ work patterns:

  • An LCD system (computer + screen) would use 197.8 kWh per year
    (107.8 kg CO2, £23.74)
  • An LED system (computer + screen) would use 164.8 kWh per year
    (89.8 kg CO2, £19.77)

Note that the savings (from 39W to 21W in use, or nearly 50%) don’t produce quite as dramatic a reduction as you may have expected, because we are assuming that the computer power use stays the same (typically  around 48W in use)

So we’re saving 33kWh, 18 kg CO2 and £4 electricity per year per monitor. Over a 5 year life, the electricity saved just about balances the higher purchase cost, but we would also save 90 kg CO2. The cost of carbon is currently set at £12 per tonne, so 90kg is equivalent to a £1.08 saving.

Of course if electricity prices rise (a safe bet) and carbon costs rise (likely) then tangible savings might be made. More important is the HEFCE requirement on the University to reduce its carbon footprint and our consequent Carbon Management Plan. iSolutions manages around 8000 computers, so if just 25% of those have more efficient screens, the annual saving would be around 36 tonnes of CO2. Not much in the grand scheme of things (the 2005/06 baseline of 51,878 tonnes) but these new monitors would be contributing more than their fair share to the 20% reduction we are aiming for.

There is one more reason to pick the LED monitors over the LCD, and that is that they also have some other excellent green credentials. As the Insight webpage puts it:

The ThinkVision L2251x wide is Lenovo’s greenest and most ergonomic monitor ever and the world’s first TCO certified edge monitor at the cutting edge of environmental responsibility and usability. Pioneering the use of the latest recycling technologies, 30% of the total weight of all plastics in the product consists of post-consumer content plastic resins. The product also has 92% recycled plastics in packaging materials, a protective bag that is reusable, in addition to mercury-free, arsenic-free glass and low halogen. It is 33% more energy efficient than conventional monitors (29.7% more efficient than Energy Star 5.0 standard), has Ambient Light Sensor and Proximity Sensor that further conserves energy, and has an integrated webcam that helps boosts productivity saving traveling time and expense. The L2251x wide is a perfect choice for environmentally-conscious users seeking cutting edge productivity boost. The incorporated ThinkVantage design enhances usability and makes the monitor easy to use. As defined by EPEAT verification criteria for calculation of post-consumer recycled content. Many plastic parts used in this product consists of (by weight) 65% post-consumer content from sources like home appliances, computers, vehicles, and office equipment and 20% post-industrial content.

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The Power of Sleep – as calculated by a spreadsheet

In a previous post, I explored the power savings that can be achieved by allowing your PC to enter sleep mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. I wondered how much more energy could be saved if you actively put your PC to sleep rather than waiting for it to do so – and the answer is suprisingly good; just over 31 kWh over a working year, saving 17 kg CO2 and around £3.70 of electricity charges. Multiply that by the 8000 Windows PCs managed by iSolutions and the numbers really start to add up.

The Windows 7 PCs have a power management plan that powers down the screen after 10 minutes of inactivity and then sleeps the computer 20 minutes later. If the user actively sleeps their PC, they will save 10 mins @ 80W and 20 mins @ 30W each time. My estimated savings above assume a working day of 9.00 – 5.30 with a single one-hour meeting and a one-hour luchbreak. I developed an Excel spreadsheet that makes it simple to compare two scenarios (computer usage patterns) and calculate the annual impact of any change. The 31kWh per year represents a 17% saving, simply by putting your PC to sleep immediately rather than letting it happen automatically. The spreadsheet is available under a Creative Commons licence, so please download and use or modify it as required. PC power saving v2

iSolutions has developed a simple script that will place a ‘Sleep and Lock’ icon on the desktop of all our Windows PCs, so that a simple double-click will sleep your PC. The tricky part will be helping people to adjust their behaviour so that sleeping their PC whenever they leave their office becomes as automatic and easy as locking the door.

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Videoconferencing your way to a lower carbon footprint

The University has several dedicated videoconference (VC) rooms, which enable staff to have online meetings with colleagues in other institutions. There are also lecture theatres with VC equipment installed which allow students to attend a lecture without needing to travel to the University.

The advantage of a VC meeting over a phone call is that you can see the person you are talking to, and the additional communication that brings (through body language, facial expression and eye movement) can be really important. The dedicated VC systems used provide high quality sound and video, and can link people from several locations. In addition, the VC rooms typically accomodate four or more people, so the meeting becomes a mix of local and virtual discussion with the technology providing a transparent window to the remote location.

Other advantages include saving time (e.g. the time taken to travel to Manchester for a project meeting) and money (the cost of the rail ticket, plus maybe a hotel room and meal if the meeting starts at 9am). In addition, a VC meeting can theoretically reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding the need to travel, and that is what this blog post will explore.

In practice, the carbon saving is hard to calculate. For one thing, that Southampton-Manchester train will run whether or not you are on it – but if you chose to drive instead, there would be a real saving. In the case of a flight to Edinburgh, a single decision will not make any difference (the plane will fly), but as businesses make greater use of VC for economic reasons the overall demand for short-haul trips will decrease, and the number of flights will reduce to adapt to that.

Just to complicate any calculations, VC equipment consumes power when on standby and in use (as analysed in this new JISC-funded report by the Welsh Video Network) so that needs to be offset against the carbon emitted during your drive to Manchester. But how much? The amount you would have used during the meeting? The driving and the meeting? Or a proportion of the total amount used that year by the VC room?

I think that the best argument for using VC is the time saved – most academics would agree that time is their most valuable resource and the one in shortest supply. In addition, most projects benefit from more frequent short meetings rather than ones that are by necessity long and infrequent because of the difficulty in scheduling whole days away from the office. The carbon savings will only become apparent as a critical mass of academics adopto VC as the default way to hold meetings with colleagues elsewhere, from Basingstoke to Birmingham, from Berlin to Beijing.

If you’d like to find out more about the University’s VC facilities, please contact ServiceLine.

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Sustainable IT pages on the iSolutions website

Circuit Board (Creative Commons licence) from Flickr user EssjayNZiSolutions is currently planning an extensive redesign of its website; not just the visual look and feel, but the underpinning information architecture. My involvement in this process made me realise that the existing site really ought to have some information about Sustainable IT, and those pages are now online.

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More PC power consumption figures

I’ve tested the power consumption of a couple more typical University desktop PCs. I also had some feedback on the shocking 9W consumed by the Viglen Genie I tested while it was ‘switched off’. More recent Viglens only use a much more reasonable 2W while switched off/asleep, which just shows the advances made in motherboard and power supply design. The older Viglens will of course get replaced in a couple of years, but until then we will have to live with their inefficiency .

System Switched off Sleep mode In use Screens off
Viglen Genie desktop (old) 9W 9W 90W 47W
Viglen Genie desktop (new) 2W 2W 90W 45W
Dell Latitude E4210 laptop
(2 19″ screens)
5W 5W 80W 38W
Dell Optiplex 760 desktop 2W 4W 80W 48W
Dell Optiplex 745 desktop 4W 4W 90W 45W
iMac desktop (27″ screen) 2W 2W 130W 90W

If you want to test your own PC, you can borrow a power meter from the desk on Level 3 of the Hartley Library.

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