16 Oct 2022
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Schedule server tasks for when the electrical grid is least congested
As the world is starting to switch to using renewable energy sources such as solar panels and windmills some questions come into mind; Should we schedule CPU-heavy tasks in data centers to run when the electrical grid isn’t congested? And; Could we mix sustainable web design and smart scheduling to lower the pressure we currently see in many countries?
These are some of the questions I would like to address in this article, and I would love for you to join the discussion at the bottom in our comment section.
Renewable sources are flawed
Renewable sources are great ways of producing electricity, but for solar panels to work you need sun, and for windmills to work you need wind. So at night when there is no wind you won’t have any power, which means we have to get it from somewhere else. Sweden is one of the leading in renewable energy, and the country is running on 99% clean electricity. The country is full of mountains and hills and they quickly figured out that they could produce much more reliable electricity by using water. Other countries are not as lucky, so they have to either import or use coal to produce electricity when renewable sources don’t produce enough.
The problem with renewable sources is that we cannot store power without batteries. But batteries require lots of important earth materials so building and maintaining batteries for everyone in the world isn’t a viable option. We are already producing tons of batteries to serve our phones, and now imagine if we should create 6-15kw batteries for every home in the world. With the technology we have today it simply wouldn’t be sustainable.
Luckily the world is looking into renewable sources that can be predicted, and one of them is the tide. It leaves and comes back every day and when used correctly we can produce electricity for up to 22 hours every day.
Growing need for electricity
In Europe, we are seeing massive growth in the need for electricity. People are buying electric cars like never before and countries like Denmark have plans of having at least 1 million electric cars on the streets by a certain year.
While this sounds like a good plan, they haven’t thought about 2 things.
- We have to produce batteries for all of these cars and those batteries have to be switched out one day.
- The electric grid isn’t built for the load that charging electric cars put on it.
Already in cities such as Gothenburg, we have to pay additional fees because of the congestion. The grid isn’t made to support the amount of electricity used and when combined with charging thousands of electric cars it simply becomes too much. There are also other places where chargers only can be shared because the grid can’t support more load.
So as I see it, there is a flaw in the plan to switch to 100% renewable energy. We need to become more aware of the power we use and how we use it, and this is where my idea hopefully can make a difference.
Schedule heavy server tasks
We have heard for years that we should wait until nighttime to turn on our dishwasher or washer. But did you know that data centers are one of the biggest users of our electricity?
A dishwasher only makes up a fraction of the used electricity but data centers are putting much more pressure on the grid. I think that if data centers could access a free and open-source API that could give them the cheapest electricity prices for the next day, then they would be able to schedule heavy CPU tasks such as backups when the grid is less congested. At the moment we all use electricity during the day and then we almost completely stop at night. But data centers for example can choose to schedule these tasks to run when the grid is least congested, and the result would be a more even spread of the usage.
Data centers alone wouldn’t make all the difference, but if we had a free API to access even web developers could schedule server tasks for the least congested times. Even at home, we would be able to schedule a dishwasher to automatically run at those hours and the result would be that we even out our usage.
As the world is trying to change to using renewable resources we also need to adapt and change the way we use them. No change is easy but someone has to take the first step. If we mix sustainable web design to lower the environmental impact our websites have and schedule heavier server tasks then we can make the internet more sustainable.
Thank you for reading the article, and I hope you are agreeing. I would like to encourage you to comment on your experience or meaning in our comment section below the article. Lastly, I would like to encourage you to share this article with your network. You might also find this article about how we can use sustainable web design to host more websites on a single server useful.
I am a self-taught and highly passionate web developer currently living in Sweden, where I use my skills to make the internet a better place through ethical and sustainable web design.