How Solar Power Can Reduce the Internet’s Giant Carbon Footprint

Internet use has a giant carbon footprint due to all the energy needed to power servers, systems, computers, and other devices. Worse still, as we increasingly rely on the internet for our lives, that carbon footprint will increase.

Enter the Solar Protocol, a new project that offers a solution to limit carbon emissions when using the Internet.

Developed by researchers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, the project runs a web-based platform hosted on a dozen volunteer-run solar servers around the world, from the Caribbean to Africa to by Australia.

“As well as being a viable system with implications for future servers, it’s a global facility that highlights web politics and different ways to track web traffic,” explain its creators.


An internet service that follows the sun

Unlike high-volume web services that automatically direct network traffic to a server that responds to a request in the fastest way, Solar Protocol’s system relies on the sun’s interaction with the Earth as its guiding method of operation. . .

Since solar-powered servers are located in different time zones with different seasons, different levels of sun exposure, and different weather systems, the system directs internet traffic to servers where the sun is shining at any given time. . Therefore, when a user of the Solar Protocol website accesses it, the server in the network that generates the most solar power always responds.

“The Solar Protocol is a great opportunity for us to bring climate change issues to the fore and how technology is driving it,” says Tega Brain, professor of technology, culture and society, who was one of the promoters of the project.

“The project has catalyzed conversations around AI and automation, as user traffic within the network is decided by solar power, so we use natural and dynamic intelligence against a model of data-driven machine learning; It is an alternative proposal. Why not consider planetary boundaries as intelligence? After all, they will shape the future of life on earth, whether we like it or not.”

Although the project is still in its early stages, it could serve as a model for other environmentally conscious Internet projects, according to its developers.

“It’s by no means an alternative to the internet, so the goal here isn’t to expand it,” says Benedetta Piantella, who works at New York University’s Center for Science and Urban Progress. “But we are releasing the system as an open standard, which means in theory anyone could start a similar network, for example a network of art museums.”

By Daniel T. Cross. Articles in English

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