- Companies in Silicon Valley, California, are being forced
to build private power stations amid growing evidence that there is not
enough electricity in America's grid to drive the booming high tech industry.
- Demand for electricity across the United States has grown
by 35 per cent in 10 years as people have taken to using computers. More
than 10 per cent of the country's total power is now used to drive computers
and the many other hand-held electronic gizmos that are becoming popular.
The growth of the internet and e-commerce has put even greater strain on
the power supply.
- Karl Stahlkopf of the Power Research Institute said:
"You may think electronic gadgets can't use much electricity. In fact,
when you look at the servers and the computers that back up the wireless
Palm Pilot for example, you'll find it has the electrical load equivalent
of a refrigerator."
- The unremitting desire for electricity is most keenly
felt in and around Silicon Valley, where an average microchip processing
plant uses enough power to run 50,000 homes. Fearing that the public utility
companies will not act fast enough to generate more electricity, Oracle,
one of the largest software manufacturers, has spent millions of pounds
building its own power station.
- Many others, including Sun Microsystems and Microsoft,
are submitting proposals to do the same. Mr Stahlkopf said: "If they
can't get reliable power from the utility, then the only solution is to
build a plant and provide it themselves." Justin Bradley, a spokesman
for Oracle, said: "It's very critical to us to have reliable power."
- Demand for electricity so outstrips supply that power
cuts in Silicon Valley are increasingly frequent. A loss of power, even
for a short time, can cost individual businesses $1 million (£650,000)
an hour and the industry £65 million a day. Computers require an
uninterrupted supply to function properly. If this is stemmed even for
one-sixtieth of a second - not enough to make ordinary lights flicker -
a computer system can crash.
- Power disturbances are capable of causing more than 17,000
different computer problems, from frozen cursors to a serious crash. The
power supply in Silicon Valley was recently drained to a point where dozens
of companies lost millions of dollars. The event was the most serious indicator
so far that America's electricity supply cannot cope with the power needed
to run the digital economy.
- The power industry is building new plants, but they cannot
be completed fast enough and are hugely expensive. There are now plans
for a temporary floating power plant on a barge to serve Silicon Valley
this summer, when even more power is needed to fuel the vast air-conditioning
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