Felix Stalder on Wed, 7 Feb 2007 12:19:26 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Energy Consumption of an Avator in Second Life

from http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/12/avatars_consume.php

He quotes Philip Rosedale, the head of Linden Lab, the company behind
the virtual world: "We're running at full power all the time, so
we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in co-location
facilities [where they house their 4,000 server computers]. We're
running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we've
got machines in. We can't for example use [blade] servers right now
because they would simply require more electricity than you could get
for the floor space they occupy."

If there are on average between 10,000 and 15,000 avatars "living"
in Second Life at any point, that means the world has a population
of about 12,500. Supporting those 12,500 avatars requires 4,000
servers as well as the 12,500 PCs the avatars' physical alter egos are
using. Conservatively, a PC consumes 120 watts and a server consumes
200 watts. Throw in another 50 watts per server for data-center
air conditioning. So, on a daily basis, overall Second Life power
consumption equals:

    (4,000 x 250 x 24) + (12,500 x 120 x 24) = 60,000,000 watt-hours
    or 60,000 kilowatt-hours

    Per capita, that's:

    60,000 / 12,500 = 4.8 kWh

Which, annualized, gives us 1,752 kWh. So an avatar consumes 1,752
kWh per year. By comparison, the average human, on a worldwide basis,
consumes 2,436 kWh per year. So there you have it: an avatar consumes
a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in the same


UPDATE: In a comment on this post, Sun's Dave Douglas takes the
calculations another step, translating electricity consumption into
CO2 emissions. (Carbon dioxide, he notes, "is the most prevalent
greenhouse gas from the production of electricity.") He writes:
"looking at CO2 production, 1,752 kWH/year per avatar is about 1.17
tons of CO2. That's the equivalent of driving an SUV around 2,300
miles (or a Prius around 4,000)."

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