New research from Alex De Vries published in Joule magazine finds that Google’s Bard has the potential to use up to 29 terawatts of energy each year.
For context that is roughly as much energy as is used by Ireland annually.
The environmental impacts of artificial intelligence are just becoming visible and with a lot of predictions for rapid growth, one of the few blockers to this continued growth remains resources like electricity and water.
At the center of the power drain are the massive data centers that run tens of thousands of AI computers needed to train the models that underlie ChatGPT, Bard, and other generative AI models.
Microsoft built a data center in Iowa for partner OpenAI that reportedly cost upwards of $100 million and is running thousands of computers in clusters to power the ChatGPT advances.
They claim it is the largest such data center in the world and while they claim it is a green facility outsiders question just how green it is.
Beyond power, this data center also consumes water to cool the computers… a lot of water.
Based on Microsoft’s internal environmental studies, the data centers have caused a 34% spike in water usage, resulting in 1.7 million gallons used in 2022 alone.
Microsoft is opening its fourth and fifth data centers for OpenAI later this year.
As the big tech companies put these data centers up at a rapid pace, the environmental impacts have these companies looking for alternatives for electric production including nuclear power or even holding out hope that the question of fusion will be solved which will make the question moot.