The NSA (“No Such Agency”), located “in the vicinity” of Fort Meade, Maryland, is reported to be BGE’s largest single customer — and getting larger.
Agency officials anticipated the problem nearly a decade ago as they looked ahead at the technology needs of the agency, sources said, but it was never made a priority, and now the agency’s ability to keep its operations going is threatened. The NSA is already unable to install some costly and sophisticated new equipment, including two new supercomputers, for fear of blowing out the electrical infrastructure, they said. (“NSA risking electrical overload,” Baltimore Sun, August 7, 2006)
Tracking what everybody (you never know!) is doing on (and off) the Internet requires tremendous amounts of computing power and huge amounts of electricity. And — big problem coming up — you need to make sure that the power doesn’t go off at an inconvenient time. And you certainly don’t want to be dependent on powerlines and substations that can be easily attacked by terrorists.
Stupid idea: Run an extension cord nearly 300 hundred miles to the John Amos Toxic Coal Power Plant in Putnam County, West Virginia. Someone has actually proposed this “solution” — it’s called the PATH project. Sounds like something the Cheney Administration dreamed up.
Here’s a smart idea: Build computing centers that are not connected to the grid. Generate your own power for electricity, heating and cooling. And use a lot less energy at the same time. IBM and Syracuse University have teamed up to do just that:
Heat from the microturbines, meanwhile, will be captured and funnelled into a double-effect absorption chiller that will convert the heat into chilled water. That chilled water will then be utilized to cool down the computers. Air conditioning can take up half of the power delivered to a data center. Waste heat by contrast is arguably free energy. The turbines and chillers will allow the university to run the data center off the grid.