Via launches 'carbon free' computing

The term carbon free may not be 100 percent accurate, but company insists its chips are greener than others.

VIA Technologies, the Taiwanese manufacturer of microprocessors and chipsets, announced on Wednesday that it is billing its C7-D chip as the world's first "carbon free" processor.

Launched in September as a "carbon neutral" chip, the step up in billing reflects Via's hope to capture more of the market for energy-efficient technologies. This market is growing as organizations come under increasing pressure to closely monitor the impact IT has on the environment.

The C7-D processor uses a fraction of the electrical power required by AMD or Intel processors, the company says.

Reducing power usage reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere by power generators. To support its claims about the C7-D, Via will soon publish a paper by environmental consultants Best Foot Forward (BFF) that outlines the savings in carbon use that result from use of the chip.

Via has also committed to a program of energy conservation and tree planting designed to offset carbon emissions caused by computers using its chips.

According to BFF figures, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions caused by computer use in the U.K.--4.6 percent of the U.K. total--is relatively high. Only four other countries show a higher percentage in that category. The U.S. tops the list, with 30.45 percent of its carbon emissions coming from computer use. Next are Japan, China and Germany.

"But these figures do show the potential gains to be made from cutting the waste of carbon," said Keith Kowali, of Via's high-performance platforms group.

Over a three-year period, the average PC will consume 193 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and emit 97 kilograms of carbon dioxide. According to Via figures compiled with BFF, a Via computer would consume 52kWh and emit 26kg of carbon dioxide.

Via's announcement comes during a week in which Sun Microsystems became the latest company to publish research showing that energy efficiency is an increasingly important issue for organizations as they look for ways to control IT spending.

"Everything we make now has a real focus on energy efficiency," said Kowali.

But while energy-consumption figures for Via's chips are impressive--it is estimated that a Pentium D will generate 265kg of carbon dioxide in its lifetime--they tell just part of the story. Another factor is the considerable energy that can be consumed in the process of manufacturing the chips.

"We don't control the fabrication process, which is handled by our suppliers," Kowali candidly admitted. "We work with them to try and find ways to improve energy efficiencies, but much of the information is proprietary."

Via can only ask fabricators to comply, Kowali said. "But we can get the best savings in those areas that we do control."

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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