Two talks stuck out today. One was a brief talk from Saul Griffith of Makani Power. What I took away from the talk was the impracticality of many renewable energy sources such as tidal power and wind power. A combination of all renewable options, with an emphasis on solar and a strong conservation element will be required to simply maintain our current consumption, let alone address growing desires from China and other developing countries.
Another standout talk that actually shared a bent on energy consumption, was by Stan Williams of HP Labs. His lab is researching several pieces of the exabyte and zetabyte computing puzzle. To paraphrase Stan, “We can’t use spinning disks in zetabyte computing because we’ll start torquing the earth” and that “using a zetabyte computer to model the earth’s climate will have to include the computer itself as it will be the single largest actor on the earth’s climate.” The tie-in with Saul’s talk is that a zetabyte computer made of modern components would require 3 terawatts of electricity, which I immediately remembered as the total energy that could be harnessed from tidal power before bringing the oceans to a standstill. Of course, we would also have to include that in the climate model.