IT development has led to increased CO2 emissions —Creating a society that reduces emissions through effective use of IT equipment
On close examination, clearly the main cause of today’s global environmental problems is an “increase in CO2 emissions.” Most of this is generated by electricity consumption. It is not difficult to imagine a great deal of power is wasted in diverse areas of power usage. The evolution of civilization, especially the development of personal computers, has brought considerable benefits into our lifestyles. At the same time, this evolution has resulted in a tremendous rise in power consumption in offices, schools and homes. Professor Hiroshi Esaki, of the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, and other researchers, are at the center of a large-scale project to put the brakes on this incessant increase. With the participation of many corporations, they are endeavoring to build a system that uses the computers themselves to reduce wasteful power consumption.
Ideal energy conservation to please users, corporations and the Earth
Professor Esaki worked for a major IT corporation before assuming his current position. At the start of the project, he declared: “Implementation of genuine energy conservation is impossible without the involvement of large corporations. Corporations will not act simply in the name of ‘contributing to the global environment.’ Unless we have a mechanism that can contribute also to a company’s business, then our undertaking will not last long.”
Energy conservation is now an issue confronting humankind, and the concept called “Green IT” is gaining global recognition. Generally, Green IT refers to application of the principle of environmental consideration to IT products, as well as other goods. However, the approach taken by Professor Esaki and his team entails “utilizing IT itself for energy conservation.” This requires the concurrence and participation of many corporations. As Professor Esaki stated above, the approach cannot develop unless it also brings benefits to enterprises.
“Basically, people tend to aim for better living conditions. By incorporating an energy conservation perspective and system, ultimately we will be living environment-friendlier lifestyles. This is our concept.” The Green University of Tokyo Project introduced here is an actual example of such a system installed in the Faculty of Engineering No. 2 Bldg at the University of Tokyo, Hongo Campus.
Promotion of Green IT embraces the goal of building a sensor network that covers the entire planet, and achieving the cooperative action of all electrical equipment based on that network. Putting it simply, a computer senses the situation and decides an electrical device should be turned on or off. In response, all connected devices can then turn themselves on or off as necessary. We envisage countless such control systems placed everywhere.
In schools and office buildings, lighting, air-conditioning, elevators, and other facilities are high energy users. The products and services of many companies are involved. Therefore, this project currently embraces a “large family” of 31 corporations, including Panasonic, Toshiba, NEC, Kajima Construction and Daikin Industries, as well as 13 IT-related organizations such as NPOs, the University of Tokyo, Nagoya University, Keio University and Ritsumeikan University. Based on the results and lessons learned in the Faculty of Engineering No. 2 Bldg, we will likely become the nucleus for design and deployment of energy conservation systems for municipalities, corporations and other organizations. In summary, this amounts to achievement of “ideal energy conservation” satisfying aspirations for comfortable and convenient living conditions, profits for enterprises, and environmental measures.
Technology with outstanding measurement and sensing functions achieves efficient power consumption
Finally, I will introduce a number of specific examples in the Faculty of Engineering No. 2 Bldg. Forty percent of power used in the building is taken up by air-conditioning; lighting takes 30%. The key is in how we gain highly efficient control over this power usage.
For example, cooling the server room requires a large amount of power. There were doubts about the cooling method – that is, the suitability of locations of vents for the intake of warm air and the output of cooled air (See Figure 4). Optical fiber sensors were installed to measure temperatures in various areas of the server racks. Measurements showed substantial irregularity of cooling. Computers were then used to determine the optimal locations of intake and output vents. As a result, energy usage was reduced by 15%.
Furthermore, with installation and computerized control of people sensors, we achieved optimal control of lighting and air-conditioning in each room. For example, somebody makes a reservation for a conference room (by computer). In the middle of winter, the heating is turned on in the room a few minutes before the scheduled time to ensure a comfortable space. However, for some reason the conference is cancelled and the room is not used. With earlier systems, the air-conditioning and lighting would be on continuously for the reserved time span, even though nobody is using the room. Following installation of the people sensors, all room facilities are turned off automatically if nobody arrives within 10 minutes after the scheduled start time. This mechanism is enabling the reduction of waste.
Assigning someone to walk around and prevent waste of resources by turning off unused facilities is not realistic in today’s society. This is an era for liberal use of functions controlled by automated computerized systems.
(Kaniwa Hioki January 13, 2010)