Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Computing Spotlight: SolarNetOne


I don't usually make posts about technology on this blog, but I am making an exception, because today is Earth Day and my husband, Scott Johnson, has invented a remarkable eco-friendly Solar powered computing system. The name of the system is SolarNetOne. The following is a short interview I did with Scott to introduce my blog followers to this project.

Cory: What is SolarNetOne?

Scott: SolarNetOne is a system we developed that combines a photovoltaic solar power source with some of the most energy efficient computing hardware available to yield a total package that is perfect for sites off the grid.

Cory: How is this solar powered computing solution significant to Earth day and reducing carbon footprint?

Scott: As the internet and the number of internet users grows, so does the global "power bill" for computing in general. Our system represents a big step forward in lowering and greening the total energy consumption of Information Technology. For example, a computer lab with five modern PC's would draw in the neighborhood of 2 kilowatts, while the Solar Net One, even with all its additional features, draws only slightly more than a 100 Watt light bulb.

Cory: What were the most important factors in choosing an Earth-friendly computer network design?

Scott: I would have to say a) power consumption and b) longevity of the equipment. The former reduced the load on the power grid or alternative energy system, and the latter keeps the electronics out of the landfills for as long as possible.

Cory: Is open source software and linux a significant factor into creating sustainable computer networks?

Scott: Absolutely. Our open development method means that many eyes see our code. I may write 100 lines of code to do a given job. If we were a proprietary software house, that would be the end of it. Instead, another programmer may know a trick I don't and bring the lines of code down to 50. Now the computer only has to work half as hard, with the processor using half the electricity to perform the instructions. Later, another programmer trims it down to 10 lines of code. Now we are using 10% of the energy to perform the same task. Expand this to cover millions of lines of code, and it adds up significantly. On a side note, this is why our software also runs significantly faster on the same hardware.

Cory: What is the best solution for someone that would like to have a green computing system for the home or office?

Scott: SolarNetOne or a variant thereof! Seriously, on a smaller scale, an energy efficient laptop can provide all the computing most individuals need, and can easily be run on solar power.

Cory: I know you have done a lot of computer hardware recycling in the past. Do you have advice for people who are throwing out computers that are too slow or are broken? Do you have any creative upgrading, recycling or reusing ideas to share?

Scott: FreeGeek.org is the champion of open source recycling. with many more chapters opening up, they are becoming a powerful force in computer
recycling.
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