Once they do, he says, "we would like to think it's a no-brainer."
But supply-chain infrastructure is still missing, cautions Jack Pouchet, another Green Grid board member, who is also director of energy initiatives at Emerson Network Power. Data centers need a steady, reliable flow of new equipment and service.
"A data center is a living, breathing animal," he said. "There are things coming in and out every day."
He also pointed to natural disasters as added risk factors in Iceland. Tough building standards can protect against earthquakes, he said, but volcanoes can cause the country to grind to a halt, as seen during the 2010 eruption in southern Iceland.
Tómasson counters that the volcano and earthquake activity is well-mapped, and data centers and power plants are located strategically with those risks in mind.
In all, he said, the country has been primed. "This is the year of the takeoff," he added. "We'll be getting more and more interest. I only see this as the beginning.
Big dreams about the big names
Brech says Tómasson may well be right, but he's going to wait and see.
"Once there are a couple big-name data centers that make the step, I think you'll see several more follow," he said. "It needs that first big example to start a little bit of a snowball."
In the United States, clean-sourced data centers have less momentum. Renewables here are intermittent, which would not suit data centers' constant needs. And facilities are linked to an electric grid that contains a mix of energy sources. In a standard grid, it would be impossible to ensure that a particular data center was being fed only renewable energy.
Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others are in an undeclared race to build the most energy-efficient data center in the United States. They are clustering in places like western North Carolina and eastern Oregon where coal, natural gas and nuclear run the show.
But they are also pouring resources into state-of-the-art servers, heating and cooling equipment, and ventilation to lower electricity needs (ClimateWire, Aug. 10).
Impressive, says Olafsson, but Iceland can one-up them.
"So they're saying, 'Oh, our processors are 20 percent cleaner.' Well, the real fix is using clean energy," he said. "Then they won't have to worry about how much energy they use."
Olafsson perhaps optimistically estimates that 5 to 10 percent of the world's data will someday flow through Iceland.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500