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Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:55 am
by abasile
SageBrush wrote:
tbleakne wrote:Typing 1,000. characters into Google Search costs the same Carbon footprint as a short airline flight from LAX to Las Vegas.

And in other news, the earth is flat.

I'll admit that I'm also skeptical. Perhaps they are understating the emissions arising from a short flight. But the main point stands - data centers use a lot of juice! I'm not going to stop running my Google searches, though.

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:56 pm
by SageBrush
abasile wrote:
SageBrush wrote:
tbleakne wrote:Typing 1,000. characters into Google Search costs the same Carbon footprint as a short airline flight from LAX to Las Vegas.

And in other news, the earth is flat.

I'll admit that I'm also skeptical.

Skeptical ? How about a nanogram of a picogram of a femtogram of common sense ?

If you like numbers though, Google said in 2016 it used 0.01% of the world's electricity;
Search is about 10% of it's data servers load;
And it is implementing algorithms to to reduce its electricity use 15%.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... 5-per-cent

So on average, Search today (presuming no advances in computing efficiency -- obviously not true) is 0.00085% of the world's electric footprint. I estimate a search query as consuming one watt-hour of energy, although Google's commitment towards powering its data centres with renewable energy drops the actual carbon footprint dramatically. And in fact, Google will be powering 100% of its data centres and operations with alternative energy in 2017 and this excludes the $3.7B invested in alternative energy production.

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:28 pm
by abasile
SageBrush wrote:So on average, Search today (presuming no advances in computing efficiency -- obviously not true) is 0.00085% of the world's electric footprint. I estimate a search query as consuming one watt-hour of energy, although Google's commitment towards powering its data centres with renewable energy drops the actual carbon footprint dramatically.

I'm willing to give Prof. Wierman the benefit of the doubt based on his credentials. I highly doubt that he was trying to deceive anyone. At the same time, he may have made some very questionable assumptions. I don't know.

That Guardian article also mentions that efficiency at Google has improved 3.5x since 2011, so Dr. Wierman (a CS/Math professor at Caltech) may have been using old information. Further, a single Google search actually involves quite a number of operations besides straight text search. They are searching as you type (multiple searches), running ad servers, and checking/loading shopping data, for instance. Further, there are significant costs to all of the web spidering to gather the data to be searched, so perhaps Prof. Wierman may have been thinking in terms of amortizing those costs across all Google searches (who knows). He may not have been accounting for the use of renewable energy. He may have been lowballing the amount of energy used on short distance flights.

So, while I'm skeptical that 1000 characters' worth of Google searches (or a single search with 1000 characters?) really would generate the same carbon footprint as a LAX-->LAS flight, I'm also very skeptical that searches use only a few watt-hours of energy in total.

Anyway, I'm not terribly concerned about this particular point, as I'm not going to change my online behavior one way or the other. The big picture is that data centers have become a rather significant part of the world's energy usage!

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:10 pm
by SageBrush
abasile wrote:
SageBrush wrote:So on average, Search today (presuming no advances in computing efficiency -- obviously not true) is 0.00085% of the world's electric footprint. I estimate a search query as consuming one watt-hour of energy, although Google's commitment towards powering its data centres with renewable energy drops the actual carbon footprint dramatically.

I'm willing to give Prof. Wierman the benefit of the doubt based on his credentials. I highly doubt that he was trying to deceive anyone. At the same time, he may have made some very questionable assumptions. I don't know.


I agree, the Prof was so misunderstood the entire story is laughable and pathetic.
His lecture is apparently not available on the internet so we can only guess what he was actually saying:

If the flight from LA to Las Vegas is 40 minutes, and
my recollection of CO2 expiration in an adult human of ~ 300 Kg a year is correct, and
he was using old Google data of 0.2 grams CO2 per search, and
his 1000 char search = 100 searches that consume 0.2 grams a piece,

It works out that a Wierman mega-search powered by a dirty grid = the amount of Co2 expired by one person on a 40 minute flight. Not the flight !!! The breathing of one person.

Mostly I am amazed that otherwise intelligent people like yourself can swallow a story line that is off by a magnitude of around 350,000 fold for a simple search.

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 4:53 pm
by abasile
SageBrush wrote:Mostly I am amazed that otherwise intelligent people like yourself can swallow a story line that is off by a magnitude of around 350,000 fold for a simple search.

I figured as much. However, this may not be totally crazy. Perhaps 100 kWh could be a lowball estimate for the energy to transport someone from LAX to LAS (an optimistic 70 mpg equivalent per passenger on a full flight, times three gallons equivalent for the distance of 210+ miles, and 33.6 kWh/gallon of gas). If each Google search session involves an average of 10 characters, then we have 100 search sessions, or 1 kWh per search session. If that includes a pro-rated portion of Google's search servers' idle time, the other relevant Google servers, plus all of the data center cooling and maintenance costs/energy, plus a portion of the web spidering and data analysis costs, then maybe 1 kWh/session isn't super crazy. It still seems pretty high, but not by multiple orders of magnitude.

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:14 pm
by SageBrush
abasile wrote:However, this may not be totally crazy. Perhaps 100 kWh could be a lowball estimate for the energy to transport someone from LAX to LAS (an optimistic 70 mpg equivalent per passenger on a full flight, times three gallons equivalent for the distance of 210+ miles, and 33.6 kWh/gallon of gas). If each Google search session involves an average of 10 characters, then we have 100 search sessions, or 1 kWh per search session. If that includes a pro-rated portion of Google's search servers' idle time, the other relevant Google servers, plus all of the data center cooling and maintenance costs/energy, plus a portion of the web spidering and data analysis costs, then maybe 1 kWh/session isn't super crazy. It still seems pretty high, but not by multiple orders of magnitude.

Clearly many orders of magnitude off.

Per the NYT Dec 2016 (not known how old the Google data is),

Google search is 10% of services;
Total energy is 3.3 million MWh a year;
Two trillion searches a year.
Works out to about 600 WSeconds a search or around 0.16 Wh a search
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q ... S1hzWFDPSA

You can also start from a google search since Google reports how long it worked out the results. I usually see 0.25 - 0.5 seconds. Sounds like 10-15 CPUs are involved

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:09 pm
by SageBrush
abasile wrote:1 kWh per search session. If that includes a pro-rated portion of Google's search servers' idle time, the other relevant Google servers, plus all of the data center cooling and maintenance costs/energy, plus a portion of the web spidering and data analysis costs, then maybe 1 kWh/session isn't super crazy. It still seems pretty high, but not by multiple orders of magnitude.

Aww. come on!

If electricity costs Google 5 cents a kWh,
They serve up over two trillion searches a year,
and Search is ~ 10% of their services,

Just their electric bill would be ONE TRILLION USD a year.

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:33 pm
by abasile
SageBrush wrote:If electricity costs Google 5 cents a kWh,
They serve up over two trillion searches a year,
and Search is ~ 10% of their services,

Just their electric bill would be ONE TRILLION USD a year.

Wow, I didn't realize Google fields 2T searches/year. That's a lot!

Now, I think it's fair to assume that search is disproportionately CPU and power intensive. Serving up video, and processing videos, would of course also be big. Even if search represents half of Google's energy usage (which I seriously doubt, though I'm guessing it's > 10%), at only $0.05/kWh, that's still $200 billion per year for electricity. Hmm. I don't believe that at all.

Based on 2T searches/year, I'll have to concede your point. The professor may be off by two orders of magnitude! (Three might be a stretch.) Either that, or somehow tbleakne mis-heard or mis-interpreted what he said. That's possible, but I know him to be a sharp guy. As we've speculated, there could be built-in assumptions based on old data (many fewer searches, much less efficient systems, "dumber" algorithms, etc.)

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:05 am
by SageBrush
abasile wrote:Based on 2T searches/year, I'll have to concede your point.
I did a lot of Google searches during this conversation. Lucky for the planet it only cost about 0.2 Wh per search and not 200,000 Wh like a flight from LAX to LAS ;-)

Silly numbers aside, Google powers 100% of its operations with clean energy. And I don't mean REC purchase BS, but real additional generation. That is just phenomenal. The Google environment report they recently published is fascinating reading. They are probably decades ahead of the country in their thinking and actions. No diversion to landfill, re-use, water conservation, huge strides in reducing oil use ... the list is amazing.

Go Google!

Re: Grid scale projects in California and net grid demand

Posted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:28 am
by abasile
SageBrush wrote:I did a lot of Google searches during this conversation. Lucky for the planet it only cost about 0.2 Wh per search and not 200,000 Wh like a flight from LAX to LAS ;-)

Silly numbers aside, Google powers 100% of its operations with clean energy. And I don't mean REC purchase BS, but real additional generation. That is just phenomenal. The Google environment report they recently published is fascinating reading. They are probably decades ahead of the country in their thinking and actions. No diversion to landfill, re-use, water conservation, huge strides in reducing oil use ... the list is amazing.

Go Google!

I appreciate your efforts to look into this. I'm especially impressed at the high efficiency of Google's search architecture, considering the enormous volume of data that each search can potentially reference. It's an understatement to say that they've really come a long way. And I'm very pleased to know that Google is so focused on environmental stewardship. Truly awesome.

What puzzles me is that Prof. Adam Wierman is currently the chair of the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences at Caltech. On his web page (http://users.cms.caltech.edu/~adamw/), the first research interest that he lists is "Algorithms for Sustainable IT". So he ought to know this area quite well! I may want to look more closely at his work to understand more precisely what he has been saying. Perhaps you have already done so.

What bothers me is that this demonstrates the ease with which FUD or "alternative facts" can be spread, quite often unintentionally. Clearly, I'm not immune. I will have to say that I've read more than a few articles in purportedly credible publications, such as IEEE Spectrum, that have seemed pretty dubious when addressing areas that I know relatively well, such as electric vehicles.