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Computers Causing 2nd Hump In Peak Power Demand 375

Hugh Pickens writes "Traditional peak power hours — the time during the day when power demand shoots up — run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. when air conditioning begins to ramp up and people start heading for malls and home but utilities are now seeing another peak power problem evolve with a second surge that runs from about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. when people head toward their big screen TVs and home computers. 'It is [not] so much a peak as it is a plateau,' says Andrew Tang, senior director of the smart energy web at Pacific Gas & Electric. '8 p.m. is kind of a recent phenomenon.' Providing power during the peak hours is already a costly proposition because approximately 10 percent of the existing generating capacity only gets used about 50 hours a year: Most of the time, that expensive capital equipment sits idle waiting for a crisis. Efforts to reduce demand are already underway with TV manufacturers working to reduce the power consumption in LCD and plasma while Intel and PC manufacturers are cranking down computer power consumption. 'Without a doubt, there's demand' for green PCs, says Rick Chernick, CEO of HP partner Connecting Point, adding that the need to be green is especially noticeable among medical industry enterprise customers."
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Computers Causing 2nd Hump In Peak Power Demand

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  • Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:30PM (#25442393)

    The free market is actually coming up with solutions?

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:36PM (#25442473) Homepage Journal

    Traditional peak power hours -- the time during the day when power demand shoots up -- run from 4 pm to 7 pm when air conditioning begins to ramp up

    But what about those of us who DON'T live in Texas? I only use my air conditioning 3-4 months a year, and not consistantly then. I haven't had it on for weeks; I ran the (gas) furnace this morning.

    And most people I know (granted, most of tem aren't nerds) turn the TV on as soon as they get home. How did they come to the conclusion that computers are causeing the spike?

    Maybe folks are eating dinner later and it's that George Foreman electric grill and 750 watt microwave nuking dinner that's causing it?

    Sorry, I didn't read the linked blagh. Were there some useful stats garnered from real research, or was it a slanted piece like it seemed from its URL?

  • 3 steps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:38PM (#25442511)

    1. Offer to sell electricity at a fixed rate by the hour
    2. Broadcast the price through the outlet
    3. Let appliances display the current (ahah) hourly rate

  • Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gearloos ( 816828 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:47PM (#25442647)
    As far as I can see this is just a bs sensationalizing fluff story. I work for a multi state power utility as an engineer and we have no such issues.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:49PM (#25442661)

    .....Of all the countries that practice significant government intervention in markets, how on earth did you pick North Korea? It's like saying, "Hey tjstork, your computer is a bit laggy" "WELL AT LEAST ITS FASTER THAN THE P3 I INSTALLED VISTA ON, LOL"

  • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:49PM (#25442663)

    The free market is actually coming up with solutions?


    The fact this trend happening in consumer electronics is a boon to a straining power industry is an accident. (No, i'm not being sarcastic).

    These companies have other, more important reasons for developing higher performance per watt.

    The trend in computing is increasingly toward notebook ownership. Notebook battery life is increased by lower power consumption.

    LCD displays also eat a lot of computer battery power.

    It is in the best interest of the panel makers (whose panels end up in both TVs AND Computers) to increase the energy efficiency of their panels.

    Flat panel tv's also benefit from this lower power consumption, which also serves as an excellent marketing angle for "those thrifty tree huggers".

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:00PM (#25442851)

    So, in other words, the consumers are demanding certain kinds of products, and the companies that make them are creating them.

    Sounds remarkably a lot like the free market working.

  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:01PM (#25442867)

    this already happens if people try - where i live i opted for the time of use meter - where off peak power is extreamly cheap and on peak it is 2x or more normal price..

    mix that with the fact that i have appliances with timers - we load the dish washer or washer or dryer and set it to run at 12-2am .. and go to bed..

    in a 2 story house with 2 people the standard compliment of 3 comps and 2 laptops last month our power bill was 100$

    if you try there is incentive to do it - you just have to be willing to make the effort

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:03PM (#25442887) Homepage Journal

    You're young and naive; things don't move that fast. I'm 56 and the stuff that was science fiction when I was a kid has mostly already happened.

    Look at Star Trek (it's dead, Jim). Self-opening doors? Yep, in every grocery store. Communucators? Yep, only we call them cell phones. Flat screen voice activated talking computers on a desk? Yep. When Star Trek came out the average computer wasn't much more powerful than today's scientific calculator and took a whole building to house, and cost millions of dollars. Say "Mom" into your Razr and it will dial your mother.

    Some other things we didn't have included digital clocks, the internet, CDs, DVDs, VCRs, microwave ovens, motion sensors, crack cocaine (some things alas should never be invented), antiviral drugs, antidepressant drugs, LEDs, LCDs, air bags in cars, fuel injectors in cars, or global warming.

    In Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan McCoy couldn't cure Kirk's age-related farsightedness. But Dr. Yeh cured mine!

    In 2003 the FDA approved the CrystaLens eye implant. It was a life changing [] technology for me; as the linked journal says, I was very nearsighted all my life, and in middle age I became farsighted as well, using contact lenses AND reading glasses. I wear no corrective lenses at all now.

    They invented the flying car in 1903, it's called an "airplane". There is more energy than I can use coming from the wall sockets in my home, is that not "limitless" for all practical purposes? And they can in fact cure many cancers these days provided it is caught soon enough.

    To this geezerly nerd, I'm living in a science fiction world. You might be interested to read Growing up with computers []. I think you are likely to see as much progress in your life by the time you reach my age as I have. Unless I croak soon I expect to see even more technological miracles.

  • Article costs. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ostracus ( 1354233 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:07PM (#25442973) Journal

    "Those are expensive and/or painful measures, and more importantly, those measures fail to tell us that "it is virtuous to buy a new computer or entertainment system"."

    How much would we save if all computers hibernated during non usage? Or had smart UPSes that turned everything off and on instead of running 24/7?

  • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:08PM (#25442991)

    So, in other words, the consumers are demanding certain kinds of products, and the companies that make them are creating them.

    Sounds remarkably a lot like the free market working.

    Yes, but not for the power companies.

    There are plenty of incidences of interactions between 2 parties providing benefit to a third by mere coincidence, but that does not mean the third party influenced them.

    I'll let you know when the free market caters to my demand for affordable healthcare coverage so I can have more than 8 hours awake per day.

    Let me know when the free market

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:13PM (#25443035)

    For saying that this isn't free market you sure did a great job explaining the OP's case for him.

    This guy said this is an example of a free market "working"

    free markets work on supply and demand.

    These companies are not responding to power companies' complaints. The power company is not benefiting from a free market, just a fortuitous but unrelated chain of events.

    If the customers of laptops demanded obscene brightness, more screen real estate, and high performance short bursts of computing power, they'd put 17 CPU's and 4 panels on laptops and they'd suck the grid dry.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:13PM (#25443047)

    Hmmm... I think I'd rather have the USA's free market, even with its fiscal problems, then what's going on in North Korea....
    A free market with a few bumps in the road is better than a non-free system and the attendant starvation.

    Because really, those are the only two options. ::rolleyes::

  • by mc900ftjesus ( 671151 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:15PM (#25443091)

    offer cheaper power at off-peak times. Let me use my dryer cheaper at 11PM than 5PM and I'll gladly make an effort to do just that.

    Keep charging me the same, and I'll continue to not care about peak power.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:16PM (#25443099)

    Welcome to retarded. Going green used to be about garbage and pollution -- which at least had air-quality in mind. But reducing power usage -- especially electrical power usage -- is such a bad idea I'm calling it a super-bad idea (or should that be a sub-bad idea?).

    First-off, Intel and AMD aren't reducing power to be green. They are reducing power as a part of miniturization -- smaller circuits can't use more power without shorting. Server farms of thousands of computers care about power only on the bottom line, it's not about being green.

    So what's going to happen in ten years when the next power surge is everyone plugging in their cars at night? And what happens when they charge in minutes instead of hours?

    Going green is not the way humans in a capitalist business society solve problems. If you're asking 500 million people to use less electricity, you'll maybe get 50 million using 5% less. Congratulations. And with each passing year, you have Africa using 999999% more. What will you do in fifty years when the global first-world is thirty times larger?

    In our societies, you solve problems by finding new business opportunities that decrease requirements by orders of magnitude across the entire population -- not 5% on a per-human basis.

    And in order to present those new business ideas with contrast, you use MORE of the offending substance. Not less. More. You use MORE gasoline as a society, and then it becomes MORE worthwhile for a new business to replace that gasoline with something else -- telecommute, hybrid, fuel cell, electricity. If our gasoline requirements were double what they are now -- ehem, when they are double what they are now (in terms of volume and price together), electric cars will save you more money, and there'll be a reason to start replacing gas stations with charging stations. You'll have turn-key telecommuting solution, and video conferencing solutions will become more plentiful. Right now? Right now you have "eh, for that much, I'll just fly them in and forget the teleconference".

    You want more efficient solar panels? Something more than the 20% you get today, and the 30% the lab gets today? Use twice as much electricity, and someone will spend the money to develop better solar cells. Right now? It's still more expensive -- and more polluting -- than gasoline. Which is why no one uses them.

    So, in summary:
              1. asking people to use less means very few people use very little less.
              2. using less means less of a problem means no point in solving the problem.
              3. using the problem means more of the problem means greater benefit to solving the problem.
              4. solving the problem in the correct place means an order-of-magnitude benefit to the entire society (now most of the world).

    Drink up.

  • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:26PM (#25443275)

    2 story/2 people house and you're paying $100/month for power?

    My wife and I live in a two story townhouse. All the lights are CFLs, we both have laptops that are on quite a bit of time, but I also use intelligent strips that shut off the entertainment center when the 60" LCD is off. Our power bill is never over $40/month. What's your price per KwH?

  • Re:Stupid Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:37PM (#25443443)
    This is the bain of all energy conservation... it all just gets used up to make stuff bigger and better:

    1) More efficient drivetrains for cars -> we immediately think "kewl, now I can use a bigger motor and go 0-60 in 4 seconds!"
    2) Lower power semiconductors just let us ramp up the GHz.
    3) Better insulated homes, we buy bigger homes with more empty rooms.
    4) Ultimately now matter how energy efficient we become, it will just make the carrying capacity that much higher (i.e. more affordable to have more kids).

    All of these are good things - I like big flatscreens, fast cars, and kids as much as the next guy. But as for efficiency reducing mankind's footprint on the environment, I'm worried it might not happen.

  • Re:Stupid Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @02:12PM (#25443961)

    A year away?
    I heard that last year.

  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @02:13PM (#25443979) Journal

    Incidentally, if I leave my clothes in the dryer overnight, they get wrinkled.

    So don't leave them in the dryer. Wear them for a few weeks like a good little /.er

  • by Atario ( 673917 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @02:40PM (#25444377) Homepage

    You're absolutely right -- people just get jaded. The comedian Louis CK has a bit where he asks when flying went from man's greatest dream to a dreaded bore, and points out how people whine that their choices of movie is quite limited and their chicken was overdone while they're hurtling along from continent to continent at 30,000 feet. "It's A MIRACLE. You're FLYING! The airlines shouldn't even have to advertise anything other than 'WE can FLY!!'".

    I still have a sense of wonder that we can get voice recognition and optical character recognition to work.

  • by kesuki ( 321456 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:38AM (#25454467) Journal

    this is why, you spend $10,000 to $20,000 to get solar panels on your roof, and get a 2-way meter, while simultaneously going peak/off peak power.

    solar panels will last you a good deal longer than any lead acid battery system, and there is a nice tax credit (extended to 8 years from now) on you federal return, and some states also have incentives that can further lower your cost.

    the nice part of solar cells is that the majority of 'peak' power occurs while the sun shines. so going to peak/off peak you can really make a huge difference, along with a solar panel array.

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin