Save energy, save money

7th January 2011 at 00:00
By turning your computing estate green, can you save money on your energy bills? Yes, and the numbers add up, says George Cole

Is your school's ICT system wasting money and harming the environment? Many schools have computers, servers, projectors, interactive whiteboards and printers running for long periods - even when they're not being used. Reducing ICT energy consumption is not only good for your school's energy bill, it also helps the environment by reducing the carbon footprint.

The Carbon Trust says a desktop computer and monitor switched on for 24 hours a day will give a school an annual energy bill of #163;45, but by switching it off out of hours and using power management controls this can be reduced to under #163;10.

Ray Fleming, Microsoft UK's education marketing manager, points out that small changes can mean big savings: "By switching on the energy-saving mode, a school can save around #163;20-40 a year for each computer, which in a secondary school can typically mean an annual saving of #163;10,000."

West Hatch High School in Essex uses PC Power Down software to manage all its computers. "The Windows 7 power management system is good if you just want to shut down all your PCs automatically, but we wanted something that was a little more flexible," explains Alan Richards, the school's information systems manager.

PC Power Down can also start up computers at a pre-set time. "We set it so all the school computers shut down at 5.30pm, and then restart them all at 7.30am the following morning. If we have an evening class, we can set up the system so that all the computers in a particular room switch on at 7.30pm, and off again at 9pm when the class is finished," he adds.

Wishtrac's PC Remote Shutdown software can also power-manage a network of computers, and the company claims that a school with just 50 PCs could save up to #163;1,800 a year in reduced bills. Redbridge local authority has been testing Verismic's Power Manager in a primary school's ICT suite. The system monitors and controls PC power usage, and Gary Jelks, Redbridge's ICT services delivery manager, says: "After two weeks, power consumption was reduced by 32 per cent. We plan to roll it out to all our primary schools."

RM's range of Ecoquiet PCs has been designed to use much less energy than a standard PC; for the Ecoquiet 300 this is around 45 per cent less. "A standard PC consumes around 6.5 watts, even when it's off," says Adam Stewart, RM's product manager. "The Ecoquiet 300 uses one watt."

RM says a suite of 30 Ecoquiet 300 PCs could save schools around #163;350 a year in energy bills, and produce 1,200kg less carbon than a suite with 30 standard desktop PCs. The latest version of the RM One has an ecomode button on the monitor, which reduces energy consumption by four watts by adjusting screen brightness.

Slim down with a thin-client

Laptops use around four to five times less power than a desktop, and if your pupils mainly use computers for web surfing, netbooks are ideal and use even less energy. Or you might consider an energy-saving thin-client solution from companies such as RM, HP, LG, Dataspire and Wyse. Thin-clients don't have hard disk drives - almost all resources are stored on a server. As a result, they use far less power than a desktop PC, typically 16 watts compared with 80 watts for a PC. Even when the energy consumption of the thin-client server is included, a thin-client still uses two to three times less energy than a desktop PC.

A survey by the German Fraunhofer Research Institute suggests that by opting for thin-clients, organisations can reduce their annual energy bill by a factor of three, even when the thin-client server is included in the calculation.

Because servers are often hidden away, it's easy to forget they consume lots of power. "You can switch off your PCs, but your servers have to stay switched on all the time," notes Mr Richards. The number of physical servers can be reduced by using a system called virtualisation, which converts a physical server into multiple virtual servers. Mr Richards estimates his school has saved #163;12,000 by using virtualisation to reduce the number of servers from 22 to nine, with most of the savings due to reduced energy costs.

Twynham Community School in Dorset has used virtualisation to halve its server numbers to 11, with plans to remove three more. "You save money and you don't lose anything in terms of performance with virtualisation," says network manager Dave Coleman.


Keeping an eye on your school's energy consumption can help keep it under control. Ashley CofE Primary School in Kingston upon Thames has been using Ecodriver, a PC-based energy monitoring system. Headteacher Richard Dunne says it has already changed behaviour and reduced costs. RM UtilEyes is a system that monitors a school's electricity, gas, water and oil consumption online. Schools can use this information to make big savings - the John O'Gaunt School in Hungerford has saved almost #163;17,000 a year with it.













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