PHOENIX -- There are ten microprocessors inside of your average wind turbine, and Intel wants to provide a good number of them.
The chipmaking giant is making a push to insert its processors into the machines that will help the world go green and curb energy consumption. For the past few years, it has been one of the leaders in trying to reduce the power consumed by data centers. But it also sells microprocessors to wind turbine manufacturers, according to Lorie Wigle, eco-technology general manager at Intel, who spoke at Surviving the Shakeout, a two-day conference here sponsored by Greentech Media.
It is also working with the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) on a three- year smart grid project. The SGCC will run grid simulations on Intel servers, she said, as well as jointly set up a lab to experiment with ways to incorporate embedded chips technologies into transmission equipment. The SCGG controls the grid that covers 80 percent of mainland China.
"The time for smart grid is now," she said.
Intel is also looking at ways to become involved in figuring out ways to allow power meters and substations to communicate, creating computer models and simulations for renewable energy and devising building energy and management systems. (Cisco has also announced plans to get into building energy management.)
Wigle showed off a household software console that lets consumers to see how much energy they consume called TED – short for The Energy Detective – that's similar to ones from Google, Tendril, Greenbox and others.
The overall market for processors in green energy might be several billion dollar a year business, she said. But the segment for x86 processors, the type of chips Intel sells into the server and PC market, might be worth "hundreds of millions," she said. That's not going to move the bottom line much. Intel reported $7.1 billion in revenue and $647 million in net income in the first quarter. But the type of chips sold to the wind industry and several other green industries will likely be embedded chips, which are essentially less expensive and more energy-efficient versions of chips that a few years earlier were found in notebooks. Thus, it's a way to extend a product line.
The global stimulus boom helps too. Globally, governments have dedicated roughly $3 trillion to stimulus programs, she said.
In usual Intel fashion, the so-called Open Energy Initiative is a multi-pronged approach. The company is linking up with standards organizations and policy boards to help set agendas. At the same time, Intel Capital, its VC arm, is placing investments in companies like GridNet, which wants to create a smart meter network based around WiMax, the long-range wireless protocol Intel has promoted for years for PCs.
And of course it is trying to land trials and deals with large customers. At CES in January, Intel unveiled an alliance with General Electric to stream select Internet data onto TVs. It could be used to stream household energy information, she said.
Two percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions comes from IT technologies, she added. These technologies can be used to lower the other 98 percent.