Chapter 20: The Energy Crisis

The electrical power consumption of data centers in 2010 and 2020
The electrical power consumption of data centers in 2010 and 2020

Chip-based electronics in 2010 consumed about 10% of the world’s total electric power of 2 TW. We have seen throughout the book that all segments, processing, memory and communication, are expected to increase their performance or bandwidth by three orders of magnitude in the decade until 2020. If this progress would be realized, the world semiconductor revenue could growby 50–100%, and the ICT industry by 43–66% in this decade (Fig. 6.1). Progress sustained at these levels certainly depends on investments and qualified manpower, but energy has become another roadblock almost overnight. In this chapter, we touch upon the life-cycle energy of chips by assessing the energy of Si wafer manufacturing, needed to bring the chips to life, and the power efficiencies in their respective operations. An outstanding segment of power-hungry chip operations is that of operating data centers, often called server farms. Their total operating power was 36 GW in 2010, and we look at their evolution under the prospect of a 1,000-fold growth in performance by 2020. One feasible scenario is that we succeed in improving the power efficiency of
• Processing 1,000 times,
• Memory 1,000 times,
• Communication 100 times,
within a decade.
In this case, the total required power for the world’s data centers would still increase by a factor of 4 to 144 GW by 2020, equivalent to 40% of the total electrical power available in all of Europe. The power prospects for mobile/wireless as well as long-line cable/radio/satellite are equally serious. Any progression by less than the factors listed above will lead to economic growth smaller than the projections given above. This demands clearly that sustainable nanoelectronics must be minimum-energy (femtojoule) electronics.


Bernd Hoefflinger