Building an Optimal Digital Infrastructure is one of the four themes of our Computing for the Future of the Planet work.
One of the issues to overcome with renewable energy is the problem of matching energy generation which depends on the amount of wind or solar energy available with demand which varies significantly with human behaviour. One solution is energy storage but current storage technology is limited in capacity and often far from 100% efficient. An alternative solution is to rely on geographically dispersed generation sites but this requires a large investment in power cabling to move energy around. In fact renewable generation is often at remote sites and moving power back requires a lot of expensive investment (both financially and environmentally).
We imagined the colocation of computing infrastructure with renewable generation. In times of surplus energy we could ramp up and perform more work and in times of shortage we could switch machines off stopping jobs or even migrating them to other renewable sources.
The purpose of this project was to understand the parameters of this idea. What kind of infrastructure would be required to make this feasible? How much would energy have to cost to make it desirable? What proportion of the workload would be amenable to this?