Iceland: Home to Volcanoes and World’s First Carbon Neutral Wholesale Data Center

Thanks to recent eruptions beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, we’re all now well aware that Iceland has volcanoes.

And, of course, we also know that volcanoes are storehouses of enormous geothermal energy.

Doesn’t it only follow, then, that Iceland would be an ideal location to locate energy-intensive enterprises that could take advantage of the country’s zero-emission renewable energy resources?

Of course it does, according to the folks at Verne Global.

In fact, Verne Global is now developing the world’s first carbon neutral wholesale data center in Keflavik, Iceland. Situated on a 44-acre campus that once was home to the former NATO Command Center, this new data center offers several features that may appeal to companies looking to reduce their environmental impact and cut costs. For instance:

  • Since Iceland’s electricity is 100 percent sourced from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants, the energy used at the Verne Global facility produces no carbon footprint. The company estimates that transferring 8MW of critical load power (a typical amount for a medium-sized user) to the data center in Iceland would save a business approximately 50,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.
  • Iceland’s renewable energy is relatively easy to harness, and its infrastructure is young and efficient. That means pricing is high visibility, and Verne Global says customers can lock in a rate with a fixed escalator for the next 20 years.
  • Iceland offers an optimized environment for a data center. The country’s low ambient temperatures allow Verne Global to provide year-round, 100 percent free cooling for the facility. As a result, energy for non-computing uses can be reduced by up to 80 percent compared to typical data centers.
  • Additional green aspects of the data center design, construction and operations are outlined here.

Iceland has the natural renewable energy resources that make this facility eco-friendly. But, it’s a new network of submarine fiber optic cables (some of which are less than one year old) that will make the data center hum. These cables enable Verne Global to provide unprecedented global connectivity from Iceland to North America and Europe. According to the company, the data center is now 20 milliseconds from London and as low as 41 milliseconds from New York.

Nonetheless, overcoming the historic “server-hugging” mentality that permeates most companies remains a significant obstacle, concedes Jeff Monroe, CEO at Verne Global.

“Having your data nearby feeds an emotional need,” Monroe says.

But, he does see that barrier eroding as businesses seek out more efficient ways to store data.

“More and more companies are realizing that certain applications can reside further out.  In fact, many are latency insensitive,” Monroe adds. “New connectivity options mean that businesses can start putting servers in places like Iceland — where they make the most sense.”

The Wellcome Trust agrees and earlier this year became the largest shareholder in Verne Holdings, ehf, the parent company of Verne Global.

“Most companies are anticipating some form of additional carbon legislation, and companies that run off energy from coal-powered plants are going to feel the financial impact of that,” Monroe says. “We think we’re doing the right thing: aggregating servers in the right locations.”

And what about the latest volcanic eruptions and those pesky ash clouds that continue to affect travel and supply chains worldwide?

“We built this site on a former NATO allied command center, in 1.5 million-year-old bedrock. The earthquake impact assessment there is similar to northern New Jersey,” Monroe explains. “As we see it, the volcano was a 100-year live test, and we’re very pleased with the results. Electricity and communication were completely unaffected.”

The data center is located in western Iceland, and the prevailing winds blow the ash clouds to the east, he adds.

Photos courtesy of Verne Global. The first photo is a scenic view from Iceland. The second photo shows the Verne Global data center under construction in September 2009.

As a corporate content specialist and a ghostwriter for C-level executives, Kathryn's work appears at Forbes, Industry Week and other leading trade publications and websites. She focuses on topics related to science, business sustainability, supply chain risk management and marketing. Find out more about Kathryn at . You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @CorpWriter4Hire.