Work is advancing on a state-of-the-art data server center just outside Reykyavik. The country has also been laying fiber optic cable that will be able to transmit large amounts of data to Europe and North America at latencies of just 17 milliseconds. Google alone is believed to have on the order of a million server computers in data center locations around the world.
All of those computers demand power, and added to the electrical bills is the power needed to keep the rooms they sit in cooled. Even the most efficiently tuned server box can require from 40 to 60 percent extra power for cooling purposes. Verne Holdings has sunk over 300 million US into the data center outside of Reykyavik in hopes of creating 100 or more jobs and demonstrating the possibilities.
Iceland is betting its cold climate and abundant geothermal power will entice data centers to move their servers to the North Atlantic island country. The ever-growing Internet industry powerhouses like Google, YouTube (which is now getting over one billion visits per month), Amazon, Twitter, and MySpace all rely on massive numbers of data servers churning away in the background.
Data centers use chillers to refrigerate water for the server cooling systems. This allows them to use highly concentrated clusters of computers in dense racks of blade servers. These industrial strength chillers demand industrial-scale electricity. It just so happens that Iceland’s low energy cost already has led major aluminum and ferrosilicon producers to locate plants in the country.
The government of Iceland began to promote the country for data center development in 2007, but after the events of 2008, when Iceland experienced a [6.1 Richter earthquake](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7426369.stm) and a banking industry collapse, projects and customers have been slow to materialize.
One problem seems to be the perception of Iceland as a country with not only abundant cheap energy but also volcanoes and earthquakes capable of snapping transmission cables and disrupting the power of thousands of servers on top of volcanoes?
The payoff in CO2 emissions could make it worth their while. The data center industry now contributes as much of a carbon footprint to global warming as does the airline industry, and could surpass it soon, with the explosive growth in internet traffic.
Because Iceland’s energy is renewable and carbon-free, the industry could reduce carbon emissions by millions of tons a year, claim proponents of the plan. One has to wonder, though, if all the heat those servers would be dissipating into the arctic air would have an effect on global temperatures.