The Risks of Green Data Centers

The push to be green is everywhere. When it comes to IT, what that means is a little bit unclear. Generally though, it means less power consumption, using parts or components manufactured using the least amount of power or non-renewable resources – and less hazardous waste to impact the environment.

With the move to cloud in general, it makes sense then, to locate and use data centers that are considered green. This shifts the issues regarding being environmentally friendly off onto the provider, while still making customers and shareholders happy – especially if the result is reduced cost of operation.

So where are the most green data centers? One of them has to be the Verne Global’s Modular Colo located in Keflavík, Iceland. Verne is growing quickly. Just last week they announced three new tenants for its 5,400 square foot facility that leverages the natural environment for both power and cooling. The naturally cool air provides virtually free cooling to the facility. Geothermal and hydroelectric power are abundant in Iceland, allowing Verne to offer low fixed price power contracts.

But… is anyone else wondering how that works? After all, geothermal power is abundant because Iceland is one of the most geologically active countries on the planet. That means earthquakes and volcanoes.

To be fair, most of the quakes are small. And Verne’s facility is upwind of the volcanos meaning they should avoid falling ash from an eruption.

In an interview with Data Center Knowledge, Verne’s CTO confirmed they had designed the facility to withstand interruption from volcanic ash. According to Verne’s website, “All of the buildings at Verne Global have foundations that go down to ... bedrock, making us essentially impervious to geologic events.”

Looking at those factors, the lure of cheap power in a state of the art facility is strong. While there are risks, they appear small and manageable. But that assessment forgets one thing: Mother Nature isn’t predictable.

Iceland has seen several large earthquakes over 6.0 since the year 2000. This follows over eighty years of relative calm. Is it possible that the area will escape any more large earthquakes? That’s certainly historically true. But it is also true that large, damage producing earthquakes do happen.

Still, Verne Global needs to be given credit for finding a location that can maximize the benefits of a green power source while minimizing the risk of natural disaster – as much as possible in such an active region. Other supposedly stable locations in the world aren’t immune from natural phenomena either.

Last year a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia, causing damage and minor interruptions for some of Amazon’s AWS customers.

Time will tell if the perceptions of Iceland as a hot bed of geologic activity will hurt the new efforts to make it a data center hub.

What do you think? Will Iceland’s efforts take off, or will it be bogged down by the risks of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes?