In honor of Earth Day, which was celebrated this past weekend, I would like to share my perspective on energy efficiency.
Every month, I receive a home energy usage report from my friendly utility company. I had been puzzled for years why I was using 50 or 60% more energy than my efficient neighbors. At social gatherings, I asked my friends about their energy efficiency numbers and we collectively bemoaned the mysterious efficient neighbors. Who are these people? Do they even heat or cool their homes?
Then last year, I purchased and installed the Nest thermostat. My utility company even pitched in with a price discount offer. Over time my energy usage has declined when compared to my neighbors. The most recent report shows that I used 21% more energy than my efficient neighbors. This is down from 51% in the similar period two years ago. The artificial intelligence algorithms and smart silicon are making a difference!
We’ve all observed the positive conveniences of smart products in our lives, courtesy software and silicon. But, maybe not enough has been said about the energy efficiency gains due to these advances.
Semiconductors are “the driving force behind U.S. Energy Efficiency Gains”, per a 2009 report from the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy. In their assessment, “semiconductor technologies are so essential to advances in energy efficiency gains that the U.S. economy could expand by more than 70 percent through 2030 and still use 11 percent less electricity than it did in 2008”.
As an example, in the year 2006, semiconductor-enabled technologies resulted in 775 billion kWh in energy savings, eliminating the need for 184 additional power plants. Expressed in terms of economic value, this is $69 billion in savings, enough power to run nearly 65 million US households for a year, and elimination of 479 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Here are some examples of how semiconductors help with energy efficiency.
Reliable electronic systems in place of mechanical systems
Semiconductor devices have replaced many mechanical functions and are increasingly finding new applications both in consumer and industrial applications. For example, in 2006, the US data centers consumed 61 billion KWh of energy, double the amount in 2000. To combat this, semiconductor device makers are continuously looking to optimize power, not just for portable electronics, but also for devices connected to the electric grid. Think of LED’s, which consume a fraction of the energy of an incandescent bulb. According to more recent estimates, just replacing previous generation of semiconductor devices with more energy efficient devices would save 4 to 5 trillion watt-hours per year in power supply applications, which is equivalent to two 500 MW nuclear plants.
More energy efficiency for electric motors
Semiconductor devices enable smarter machines, especially appliances and industrial equipment. For example, two-thirds of the global industrial equipment energy is consumed by electric motors and it is estimated that only five percent of these are the more efficient variable speed motors. The variable speed motors consume only 1/8 of the energy of constant speed drive motors. The energy saved by these energy efficient motors — 5% of the global footprint — is estimated to have saved enough energy produced by 10 power plants and 68 million tons of greenhouse gases. As industry leaders recognize the value of variable speed motors, the contribution of semiconductor devices to global energy savings will be made even larger.
Global semiconductor suppliers use engineering simulation solutions to design power-efficient semiconductor and electronic devices. These include application processors for portable applications, GPUs for high-performance computing, networking processors for faster communications, general purpose microprocessors for data center applications, and power-electronics components (IGBT) for variable speed electric drives.
Engineers at Advanced Micro Devices, a leader in semiconductor product development, recently noted the benefits of using ANSYS simulation products.
“Over the course of the project, the idle power was reduced by more than 70 percent. The improvements in idle power not only benefited the idle case but also created a 22 percent improvement in the maximum TDP case. The slope of the power versus bandwidth curve improved by 400 percent.
AMD plans to integrate ANSYS PowerArtist RTL power analysis technology into its standard methods.”
– Advanced Micro Devices
As an electrical engineer working at ANSYS, I am personally motivated to ensure a more sustainable energy future. ANSYS is the leader in engineering simulation and our solutions are helping companies develop not just energy-efficient semiconductors, but sustainable energy systems for electric vehicles, wind-turbines, and industrial power plants, to name a few. On our website, you can learn more about our breakthrough energy innovation initiative as well as energy efficient semiconductor design solutions.
How are how you measuring up in your energy efficiency? Feel free to share your insights and best practices.