Icelandic facility uses geothermal energy to store data for UK colleges

Hertford Regional College (HRC) in the UK has joined forces with the Thor Data Center (THORDC) in Iceland to provide cost efficient, eco-friendly technology to schools, colleges and universities throughout the UK. The joint venture has been coined “HRC Cube” and is an innovative solution to dealing with increasing cuts in UK government funding to education. Drawing on Iceland’s combination of freezing temperatures and natural volcanic heat, THORDC has become one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. Powered by clean renewable hydroelectric and geothermal energy sources, the facility is claimed to offer cost savings to its customers whilst at the same time helping them lower their carbon emissions. The fact that it is situated in such a remote location also ensures a high level of security for the data.

Located just south of Reykjavik, in Hafnafjordur, with temperatures between 1.8°C (35.24°F) in winter and 10°C (50°F) in summer, THORDC uses a new type of natural free cooling technology, developed jointly with ASTmodular in Spain. The result is a power usage effectiveness ratio close to 1:1, one of the lowest in the world. Pollution from energy production is non-existent and the carbon footprint is said to be absolutely zero.

By outsourcing data storage, on-line learning delivery, web hosting and IT service to THORDC, HRC Cube is reportedly able to deliver significant cost savings to clients whilst at the same time enabling them to be “incredibly green as well, which will help organizations meet tough new carbon-reduction standards”, says Andy Forbes, HRC’s Principal. Rather than paying often prohibitive IT service fees, HRC Cube focuses on providing a pay-as-you-use service, much in the same way as we pay for water, electricity or gas. “The beauty of the idea is that you can choose exactly how much of each service you want, and you only have to pay for what you use,” explains Forbes.

It is not surprising that such an efficient solution in data management should be born out of Iceland. According to the Iceland Trade Directory, “Icelanders are [now] world leaders in the use of geothermal energy for domestic and industrial purposes. Around 87 percent of the population enjoy central heating by geothermal energy at a price that is generally less than half of the comparable cost of oil or electric heating, thus helping make Iceland one of the cleanest environments in Europe.”

Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s major energy supplier, is currently exploring the possibility of establishing an underground interconnector from Iceland to Europe that would enable direct sales of electricity generated by geothermal and hydropower sources to European countries.

THORDC has also recently announced the Emerald Express Trans-Atlantic Cable System in Grindavik, Reykjanes, set to be launched in December 2012. The planned 100×100 Gbps network could transform trans-Atlantic bandwidth and connectivity, allowing the Iceland-based data center to offer ultra low latency connections to Europe and North America.

In directly bringing these benefits to the UK, HRC Cube could be one of the first in a long line of “green” partnerships between Iceland and the rest of the world.


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