Energy-saving IT changes save Texas town money
For small cities looking to save energy and money, upgrades to information technology (IT) infrastructure can help. That is what Tim Howell discovered when he became Hutto, Texas’ first IT manager. Originally a consultant who helped the small city upgrade its IT department to meet the needs of its growing population, Howell, as IT manager, has since made energy-efficient choices that have kept energy use to a minimum, leaving more money in the budget to support city departments.
Hutto hired Howell in 2005, after the city’s population jumped from 1,700 in 2000 to 17,000. “They had started to go through this big growth spurt, and the city manager and city council were really trying to get a ahead of the curve before the city got overwhelmed,” Howell says.
As a consultant, Howell replaced several old on-site servers with an off-site terminal server, which consolidated all of the city’s software applications and reduced energy use. When the city created the position of IT manager and hired Howell, he further expanded the city’s IT capabilities by virtualizing (partitioning one physical server into multiple “virtual” servers) three of the city’s 15 on-site servers, reducing energy use by up to 300 percent. Next, Howell purchased newer, more energy-efficient laptop computers and phone systems, and switched the city to an automated water metering system that reads meters daily from the city’s centralized water towers, saving fuel and labor costs.
With recent budget cuts, Howell has had to put some projects on hold. Among other things, he would like to virtualize all of the city’s servers and create an updated, more interactive Web site. But, in the meantime, he keeps searching for energy-saving measures that will also help the bottom line, including turning off every possible light at night. “We just try to do whatever we can,” Howell says.