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Tackling the PC power struggle

Google's latest attempt to back up its 'Don't be evil' mantra is to cover the roofs of the four main buildings of its 'Googleplex' in Mountain View, California, with solar panels.

The search and advertising giant does a great job in painting a hip picture of its corporate outlook. Announcing the installation of the solar panels on its blog this week, Google said: "Epic games of beach volleyball, urban indoor workspaces infused with natural light, enthusiasm for the outdoors – at Google, we've always taken advantage of the sun."

And now it's going to use the sun to power 1.6 megawatts of solar panels, in what it claims is the largest solar installation on any corporate campus in the world. The amount of electricity is said to be the equivalent of powering a Californian town comprised of 1,000 homes. Google's demands on the power grid, of course, far outweigh the benefits of the solar panels – it's believed to have 450,000 power-hungry servers in California alone – but the decision should be applauded.

But decreasing computing's demands on environmentally unfriendly power sources is not only the responsibility of corporate power houses. We should all look for ways to limit power consumption, and it's often as simple as turning your electrical goods off when they're not in use.

Unfortunately, not many people seem to do that, and so the European Commission is drawing up plans to force our hands. According to report leaked to The Times this week, Brussels-based regulators want manufacturers to produce products that drastically reduce power wastage. As well as computers, boilers, washing machines and air-conditioning units are the focus of the proposals, and suppliers may have only five years until their non-compliant products are taken off the market.

In future, you may be able to significantly decrease the environmental impact of having countless electrical goods in your home and office. And you won't even have to fork out for any solar panels.

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