When it comes to Intel and the environment, the semiconductor chipmaker is working to reduce its carbon footprint by making products that consume less energy, need less water to produce and use fewer materials per unit.

In addition, the company has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the largest purchaser of green power in the United States.

It’s all part of Intel’s belief that technology will be key in addressing the challenges related to the environment.

Responsible Operations

The trend toward smaller and smaller chips inherently improves energy efficiency, Intel reports.

For example, the move from 300 mm chips to 200 mm chips reduced manufacturing energy consumption by about 20 percent mostly because more chips could be produced more quickly.

These types of energy savings are expected to continue in the future as the industry finds new ways to makes chips even smaller.

Besides making chips smaller, Intel has used capital improvements to reduce energy use at its plants.

From 2001 to 2009, the company invested more than $35 million and completed more than 1,300 projects, saving more than 640 million kWh of energy. That’s equivalent of enough electricity to power more than 55,000 U.S. homes for one year.

Perhaps more importantly, these investments have allowed Intel to save approximately $18 million per year in energy costs.

Among the projects Intel completed were the installation of more efficient lighting and smart system controls, boiler and chilled water system improvements and cleanroom heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and heat recovery improvements.

Investing In Renewable Energy

Intel maintains a balanced portfolio of wind, solar, small hydroelectric and biomass sources of renewable energy.

The company became the largest voluntary purchaser of green power in 2008. In January 2010, Intel increased its renewable energy purchase by 10 percent, committing to 1.43 kWh of renewable energy credits per year. According to the EPA, the company’s renewable energy purchases equate to taking more than 200,000 vehicles off the road each year.

It should also be noted that Intel’s global investment organization, Intel Capital, invested more than $125 million between 2008 and 2010 in start-up companies that are developing alternative power sources. The investments expanded in 2009 to include smart grid and energy efficiency companies.

Water Use

Cleaning silicon wafers during the manufacturing process requires the use of ultra-pure water.

At one time, it took two gallons of regular water to produce one gallon of ultra-pure water. Today, Intel says it only takes 1.25 to 1.5 gallons of regular water to produce one gallon of ultra-pure water.

In total, Intel estimates that it takes about 12 gallons of water to produce one chip. The company has been working aggressively to lower its water consumption because of the costs involved and for the good of the environment.

From 1998 through 2009, Intel invested more than $100 million in water conservation projects at its facilities.

As a result, Intel reclaimed about 2 billion gallons of water in 2009. In total, Intel has saved more than 36 billion gallons over the years, or enough to supply water to approximately 335,000 U.S. homes for one year.

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