Can Bill Gates' $1B Investment Save AI-Powered Advertising?

Artificial intelligence (AI) requires a lot of power -- much more than anyone had anticipated in the past, it seems.

The need for power is prompting companies like Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and many others to build data centers across the United States (and the world) to provide enough electricity to support the backbone of digital life.

That includes AI-powered advertising, and it appears that the surge for electrical power is outpacing the power supply.

While Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have goals to run their respective data centers for cloud services, AI and other projects entirely on green energy, all three say they are working on technological advancements to use less power or balance the demand on the grid more efficiently.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has said the industry needs “an energy breakthrough — likely from nuclear power.”



Microsoft recently admitted its AI push will jeopardize its goal to be carbon negative by 2030. Perhaps that is why Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has already begun setting his sites on nuclear energy.

Gates' company, TerraPower, Friday broke ground on his latest project, a nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

The power plant will be smaller than traditional fission nuclear power plants. It will use sodium instead of water to cool the reactor’s core, reports NPR.

Gates and the U.S. Department of Energy are the two main backers of the $4 billion project, reports a local media outlet. Gates invested about $1 billion.

There are more than 7,000 data centers built or in various stages of development globally -- up from 3,600 in 2015, reports Bloomberg. The data centers are estimated to consume a combined 508-terawatt hours of electricity annually if they were to run continuously.

But a recent forecast for the growth of data centers may also run up against the limits of how much power can be carried through transmission lines, Ali Farhadi, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI, told Bloomberg. “I don’t think we can move that much electricity around the globe -- forget about generating it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kemmerer, the Lincoln County seat, two to three years ago ran as a declining coal mining town with a community of about 2,500 people. That has changed.

In the U.S., the demand for power is forecast to grow by 40% during the next two decades -- up from 9% growth during the past 20 years, John Ketchum, CEO at NextEra Energy, told Bloomberg.

It's pretty obvious, but when asked why data centers suck up so much power today, Ketchum told Bloomberg, "It’s AI.” He cited the need for training models and inference process by which AI calculates and draws conclusions.
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