TECHNICALITIES

Report hails semiconductors' role in energy efficiency

Things such as wind turbines, solar power collectors and increased gasoline mileage standards are all promising ways of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. But in addition to changing how we get our energy, it also helps to reduce the amount of energy we use. Enter the humble semiconductor.

Semiconductors, used in processing chips, transistors and other devices — including solar photovoltaic panels — have been doing their part to increase energy efficiency since the late 1970s. A report from the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that if we were still using pre-1976 technologies, the United States would have used about 20 percent more electricity than it did in 2006.

Looking ahead, the report lays out a 20-year, $472 billion investment model for semiconductor-related technologies. That’s a fair amount of money, but the report’s authors estimate that, with the right use of semiconductors, the U.S. economy could grow by more than 70 percent by 2030 and the nation would still use 11 percent less electricity than it did in 2008. It projects a savings on electricity bills of $1.3 billion during that span, or enough to eliminate the need for 296 power plants.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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