Photo: Verne Global
The world loves Google and Facebook. But exploding Internet usage comes with a nasty price: data centres that suck up a lot of electricity and pollute the planet.It doesn’t have to be that way.
The country of Iceland has become home to data centres that do not pollute at all. The whole country’s electricity comes from natural, renewable sources, say executives at Verne Global, which owns Iceland’s largest zero-carbon-footprint facility.
“Iceland is the only place on earth with 100% renewable energy from dual sources, geothermal and hydroelectric,” Jeff Monroe, CEO of Verne Global, told Business Insider.
Monroe is a 20-year data-centre veteran who cut his teeth at AOL. In the late 1990s, a typical AOL data centre would run on 30 megawatts of power, he says.
Today, a Google-like data centre requires “in excess of 200 megawatts,” he says. That’s enough to power about 150,000 houses in the U.S.
“In 2000 a Web company could operate on a few servers,” Monroe explains. “Now a decade later, they need racks of servers, maybe many hundreds or thousands.”
Electricity produces heat. A lot of servers need a lot of electricity which produces a lot of heat. That means that data centres must not only power all the servers but must also supply them with air conditioning, fans, ventilation systems—all stuff that needs more electricity.
Iceland’s always-cool air temperature means that Verne Global’s data centre doesn’t need air conditioning. It can do the data-centre equivalent of opening the windows and letting the cool breeze in.
Facebook uses a similar open-air setup in its Prineville, Ore. data centre, but uses misting devices and other techniques to cool the outside air.
That means that Iceland’s data centre can support more servers on less power. Verne Global’s 200,000-square-foot facility can handle up to 400,000 servers on 100 megawatts. And none of the electricity comes from fossil fuels like coal or other sources that produce carbon dioxide.
Iceland proves that we can have our Internet and our clean air, too.
Here’s a look at the world of Iceland data centres.
Photo: Verne Global
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