Flutterby™! : Movies per lb of coal

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Movies per lb of coal

2014-08-13 21:23:14.45312+00 by Dan Lyke 11 comments

On Facebook, a friend (who lives in the boonies and has a net provider whose links are way oversaturated) wrote:

My ISP regularly rants to me that we're killing the world by streaming video on the internet. Claims each feature-length-film watched is roughly equivalent to a pound of coal and 10 gallons of water. WTF? Is he as crackpot as he sounds, or should I pay attention to that? How best to tell him to shut the hell up (stop bugging me) and convert HIS network equipment to solar? Dumbfounded.

I responded:

So this suggests that 200 watt hours per gigabyte for Japan to Switzerland (ie: as around the world as possible) is a pessimistic number: http://static.googleuserconten...2013/pdfs/DirectEnergyDemand.pdf

This says that we use roughly 1.09 lbs of coal per kilowatt hour: http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=667&t=2

This suggests somewhere between 1 and 2 gigabytes per hour of streamed video: http://ask.metafilter.com/1773...the-average-movie-download-in-gb

So, pessimistically, a 2 hour movie streamed from the other side of the world (Torrented from Korea?) would use 4 gigabytes, or 400 watt hours, .4 kilowatt hours, or just under 7 ounces of coal. So... ya dig sixteen tons, wadda ya get? 73,394 movies and deeper in debt 800 watt hours, .8 kilwatt hours.

(These numbers are probably lower now, switching equipment has gotten more efficient in the 5 years since that .2kW/hr/gb calculation was done.)

You could presumably do a similar calculation about the cost it takes to bring you your mail, therefore DVDs by mail. And depending on who your provider is getting their data from there's a good chance that there's a Netflix cache within a hop or two of their gateway, which means the movie isn't coming all the way around the world, it's going a few tens of miles.

Edit: I forgot a multiply two paragraphs up...

[ related topics: Movies broadband Journalism and Media Net Culture Video Photovoltaics Energy Monitoring ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 00:01:13.853976+00 by: Larry Burton

Interesting. Let me see if I can get some actual real world numbers to run with that.I can get total megawatts used by our data center for a specific 24 hour period and divide it by the bandwidth usage for that same time period.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 06:15:52.068041+00 by: dexev

From (http://www1.icsi.berkeley.edu/...rath/papers/emergy-hotnets11.pdf), the internet uses between 170E6 and 307E6 kilowatts.

From (https://www.quora.com/The-Inte...-on-the-entire-Internet-in-a-day), the Internet transfers 7.6E18 bytes per day, or 6.3E8 gigabytes/hour

That's around 2-4 GB per kWh, yah?

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 11:38:50.854171+00 by: TheSHAD0W

So how does this compare with the cost of manufacturing a DVD or Blu-ray? What about the cost of driving ten miles to the nearest cinema?

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 15:47:14.400185+00 by: dexev

I recently took a ride in a Tesla sedan. They use about 300 Wh/mile. I don't even want to think about the embedded energy in that thing....

But remember Jevon's Paradox: increasing energy efficiency tends to *increase* total energy consumption.

Various internet sources suggest that video accounts for half of the bandwidth used on the internet. From the Berkeley paper, the internet is between 1% and 2% of our total energy consumption. Did the film-based movie industry ever consume a full percent of this country's energy?

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 16:03:48.570022+00 by: Dan Lyke

So I forgot a multiply up there, my numbers are low by a factor of two. I do like dexev's derivation of numbers closer to 250-500 watts/GB.

And, yeah, embedded energy in a Tesla... A gallon of gasoline has enough energy to move a ton of metal 35 miles, no? How big is the tank in your car?

I was about to try to work backwards on this and compare joules per gallon of gasoline to per lb of coal, to try to come up with a number for DVD delivery cost...

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 17:40:49.553188+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]

I don't have bandwidth usage yet but power usage in a large data center in July is 7.38gWh for the month. At any given time the facility is using 10mW of power. *** And just talking to one of our network engineers he came up with a 19TB a day of data moving through this place.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 19:01:11.374188+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, but you also have a substantial amount of compute happening there too, right? It's not just serving streaming data...

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 20:19:35.259802+00 by: Larry Burton

How do you stream video without adding in the computing? If money is to be made there are the business process behind it and while there are functions other than streaming video taking place here it's still data being moved.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-14 20:53:46.862469+00 by: Dan Lyke

I just figure that the folks hosting in your web site are probably doing a lot more computing than streaming.

Ie: You couldn't extrapolate the cost of serving streaming media from a Google search farm usage vs the bandwidth that came in and out of it.

So those numbers suggest that you're using 240 megawatt hours per day, or 240,000 kW/hr/day. Which says you're using 12.6 kW/hr/gigabyte transferred.

Yeah, things other than serving the data are consuming power...

#Comment Re: made: 2014-08-15 00:49:41.754762+00 by: dexev

We're leaving out the air conditioning, fire suppression, UPS, etc. systems, but I don't think those are jumping the cost an order of magnitude. What else is happening?

#Comment Re: made: 2014-09-04 23:01:48.110471+00 by: Dan Lyke

Additional question spurred by this Metafilter thread: If it's 2-4GB/kWh, how much of that is marginal for the extra data and how much of it is dead load?