April 11, 2012 at 3:18 PM ET
Abundant sources of energy generated from hot rocks and glacier-fed rivers could make Iceland one of the world’s go-to places for technology companies to set up energy-hungry server farms, according to news reports.
Data centers - where all of our emails, photos, documents, and text messages are stored when they are shipped off to the proverbial cloud – currently consume upwards of 1.5 percent of total global electricity use, according to Verne Global, a server farm company that opened doors in Iceland this February.
That figure is expected to continue to grow. By 2025, these data centers could be drawing as much as 1,300 terrawatt hours of electricity per year, according to a MIT Technology Review story on Iceland’s emerging role in the fast-growing industry.
All that energy consumption – much of it used to run air conditioners that keep the servers cool – could mean the cloud is lot less green than it sounds, especially if the energy comes from traditional fossil fuel sources such as oil and coal.
What makes Iceland compelling is its abundant source of “100 percent renewable” energy, according to Verne Global, that happens to be cheap. Costs per kilowatt hour average 4.3 cents, which is about half the average retail rate in the U.S., notes Technology Review.
All of this could make Iceland an attractive place for the world’s technology giants to park their server farms. So far, customers include Datapipe, a Jersey City, N.J., provider of disaster recovery services and an online gaming company, noted Bloomberg Businessweek.
Major clients have reportedly shown interest, but have yet to sign on the dotted line, though Verne Global predicts they are coming. But the reason they’ll come, marketing manager Lisa Rhodes told Technology Review, is for the cheap electricity. Whether the green part of it all is a selling point, she says, is debatable.
But when the bottom line happens to be green, isn’t that a win-win for business and the environment?
--Via Technology Review
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.