…a renewable energy-powered Internet: Leaping into the future, and over a cliff

Steve Alpin considers what it would be like to switch from our familiar 24/7 Internet to 100% renewable Internet. It’s not a happy experience. Steve closes with this:

Take e-commerce. Let’s say you’re a best-selling Canadian author and, moving with the times, you sell your books through iTunes, among other e-commerce vehicles. (I mean, iTunes is so convenient, and cheap—they’ve cut out all that nuisance human labour that is involved in bookstores and other dinosaur-economy relics.) Never mind that you specialize in anti-corporate screeds and that you fulminate in print against Big American Multinationals. Never mind that these Big American Multinationals ought to include Apple (the company through which you sell your books on iTunes) and Amazon (the company whose massive server farms host services like iCloud, another Apple product).
Forget about these irrelevant details and just think: what would be the impact on sales of your book through iTunes if Amazon’s gigantic server farms, currently located in the U.S. state of Virginia, which makes most of its electricity in coal and nuclear plants, suddenly switched to only renewables?
Think about that as you wait on hold, fingers impatiently drumming the desk, while some twenty-something in the premier’s office tries to find the number to somebody in Virginia who’d be better able to answer your question of why Amazon’s server farm is experiencing so many power blackouts and brownouts, affecting your e-sales.

Does Steve’s hypothetical Canadian author remind you of anyone? Any particular author? Naomi somebody? Please read Steve Alpin front to back and do check out the comments to this essay.


3 thoughts on “…a renewable energy-powered Internet: Leaping into the future, and over a cliff

  1. I fully agree that the intermittence of renewables (except for hydro) makes them unsuitable as a major source of power for most large industrial countries.

    Perhaps you could answer a question. When we read that a new huge PV solar installation will generate X kilowatts, do they mean peak power at high noon on 21 June, or is that average power for a full year? They never seem to specify.

    • they usually mean peak power at the most optimal time of day, under a perfect cloudless sky with low humidity. Average watts over a year is simply meaningless when you’re talking about solar panels.

      My fave in this context: “Did you hear about the statistician who drowned wading across a river that was an average of half a meter deep?”

      Tell THAT to the eco-conscious writer fuming about her lousy iTunes sales.

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