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Computers to outstrip electricity supply by 2040: report

Paul Brislen, Editor. 27 July 2016, 8:19 am

Moore's Law has been declared dead many times over, even by Gordon Moore himself, but a new challenger appears to be muscling in on the constant upgrade path - limits on electricity production to power all these devices.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has published its final International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) report after several decades' worth of reporting on the future of the industry. At its launch, the ITRS reported on 19 different vendors and their efforts. Today there are just four and as development passes the critical scale milestone of 10 nanometers, the question now is does the increase in speed justify the cost of development.

The answer, it seems, is beyond the SIA's ability to compute and so it is ceasing publication of its roadmap on the basis that too many non-technical variables, such as economics, are influencing future trends.

But the report goes out with a warning - total energy demand from the projected numbers of computing devices will outstrip our ability to power them, on a global basis, by 2040.

In New Zealand we are, of course, not immune to such issues - should they arise - but we do have an added advantage over and above many other nations with regard to electricity production. The vast bulk of our electricity production comes from renewable resources such as hydro and geothermal and once the Tiwai aluminium smelter finally switches off, we can add more than 25% of our current output to the grid relatively quickly.

While some have suggested New Zealand should become a haven for cloud-based data, which demands a high level of electricity supply, there seems to be no national strategy to move towards such a goal. However, if the SIA is right about increasing demand for electricity, the goal may very well be moving towards us.


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