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It takes 70 billion kilowatt hours a year to run the internet

May 29th, 2018 | | industry

Edit. No details found on ‘internet’ energy consumption for Australia (but we’re relative to America, so per capita it has to be similar). America’s myriad server farms and data centers operate 100 million drives that hold 350 million terabytes of data — everything from your decade-old emails to lolcat videos and the collected offerings of Netflix. A report from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory figures that those data centers use an enormous amount of energy — some 70 billion kilowatt hours per year. That amounts to 1.8% of total American electricity consumption. At an average cost of 10 cents per kwh, the annual cost of all that juice is on the order of $7 billion.

Seventy billion kilowatt hours is such a giant number that it’s helpful to put it into some other terms. For comparison purposes, 1 kwh is enough power to keep ten 100-watt lightbulbs illuminated for one hour, or to keep your smartphone charged for an entire year. To generate 70 billion kwh you’d need power plants with a baseload capacity of 8,000 megawatts — equivalent to about 8 big nuclear reactors, or twice the output of all the nation’s solar panels.

Sliced up per capita, the average American uses about 200 kwh a year for his or her internet use, costing about $20. For those of you obsessed with carbon footprints, your internet use is responsible for the emission of about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

(Edit. One for the Green Techies – Food for thought isn’t it. So next time you recharge your phone just remember how much green house gas you are generating.)

But our internet addiction is only growing. According to Nielsen, the average adult in the United States spends 10 hours and 39 minutes a day consuming digital media. That’s up an hour a day in the past year. And we’re spending most of that additional time peering at our smart phones, which now occupy us for an hour and a half each day.

Forbes contributor Michael Kanellos notes that research firm IDC estimates that by 2025 152,000 new devices will be jumping, directly or indirectly, onto the Internet every minute, bringing the total number of connected devices to 80 billion worldwide.

Source and more reading: Forbes