Intel's new 45nm Penryn plant goes green

Intel has gone to 'green' extremes to make its brand-new 45-nanometer chip manufacturing plant environmentally friendly.

The US$3 billion facility in Arizona started manufacturing Intel's new Penryn 45nm processors just last week. And as the company begins using the plant to make a significant shift from 65nm to 45nm microprocessors, it's also trying to boost its green quotient.

"We looked at it from a green point of view from the beginning," said Dave Stangis, director of corporate responsibility at Intel. "We started with a green blueprint and designed in waste recycling, energy efficiency, water reuse and ways to take advantage of the sunlight."

Intel said the effort marks its first steps to get the plant certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Stangis said the company has tried to use environmentally friendly materials and practices when constructing other buildings but they put special emphasis on it with this building -- called Fab 32.

It will be at least a year before it can be determined whether the new Intel plant meets the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council's environmental benchmarks.

"We need 12 months of solid operational data," said Stangis. "You have to not only say it's a green building, but [also] prove it with meter readings and operational data from running the factory. We have some goals with water conservation, for instance, but we'll have to prove it [by showing] how much we save and how much we recycle."

Advances in building construction should cut water and energy requirements and help the company save money, he said.

Stangis said Intel has spent about US$23 million to green up various buildings over the past five years and has saved US$38 million because of those investments. With Fab 32, he estimated that the company could save roughly US$1 million over the next five years.

"The payoff is in thinking about how much money we can save in energy bills and water bills over the life of the building," he added.

With the new manufacturing plant, Intel's designers have reportedly used recycled materials in the actual construction, as well as for carpeting. Stangis said they've focused on indoor air quality and lighting for employees. And they're also using gray water, or nonindustrial wastewater, from the municipality for both landscaping purposes as well as in the factory for its scrubbers, chillers and cooling towers.

"It's a holistic approach for creating a building that is good for the environment and good for the community," he said.

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