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Iceland's data center opportunities and challenges


Get to know data centers in Iceland

Source:  Beth Pariseau

Despite the fact that it's home to just 329,000 people, Iceland produces 2% of the world's energy. Data centers in Iceland can benefit from a reliable grid based on nearly 100% renewable resources and free wind cooling due to Iceland's high winds and stable temperatures.

Most people think of the 2010 eruptions of a volcano called Eyjafjallajökull when they think about Iceland, but such disruptive eruptions are rare. During those eruptions, which interfered with air travel to Europe, data centers in Reykjavík and the power grid in Iceland remained online.

Earthquakes are also common in Iceland, but buildings are constructed to withstand earthquakes measuring up to 6.0 on the Richter scale, and the last time there was a volcanic lava stream on the Reykjavík peninsula in the southwestern corner of the island, it was the year 1000.

Those who consider building data centers in Iceland should be aware of the financial as well as the geological climate -- Iceland is still recovering from the 2008 meltdown of its financial system, which will affect access to capital and the incentives offered to new data center construction projects. Connectivity to North America may also be a barrier to new construction for data center customers with high bandwidth needs until a new transatlantic cable is built.

Photo: Iceland's volcanic landscape actually benefits data centers, with abundant geothermal power sources.

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What's the best location for a data center that needs high power?
Norway has as high a percentage of renewable energy powering its grid as Iceland does, i.e. approximately 100%. The oil and gas produced offshore is mostly for export - and of course for transportation until all cars are electric (Norway has more electric autos per capita than any other country!)
Norway - particularly the western and south-western parts of the country - has stable temperature with good access to cooling. And Norway is also closer to Continental Europe, with lots of fibers cto transport all those IP-packets.
And this article really explains it all even better!
Hi Beth.

For me, the question is a bit open-ended.  It may be the engineer in me, but it asks so many qualifying questions.

To give you an example, an easy answer would be, "wherever there is sufficient grid capacity," but that's clearly a blunt instrument too.

We could ask for cheap power, green power, available power, power with lowest risk of interruption, just to mention a few qualifiers.

It's the Business that prioritizes requirements that lead to our selection for a data center.  The hyperscale operators seem to like the Pacific Northwest of the US, for example, where their cost and sustainability interests are satisfied (with cost savings augmented by the climate favorable to free cooling).  I'm aware of businesses who have seen Iceland as a favorable site for similar reasons, but then ran into problems with application performance due to latency of data between their location and Iceland.

You probably get my point with those examples.  In summary, I think it's a multi-dimensional problem when the question meets the "real world," and the questions behind the "high power" requirement may cause two businesses to look in different directions to answer that same question.

'Best of luck with your research.


There's always the option to locate your date centre in north wales - ready supply of water for cooling, adjacent the grid for stable supply, fresh air cooling solution.
Read this article: to understand why Norway beats Iceland every day for data center locations.