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BMW's cold call: It shifts computing to Iceland

Posting in Design

BMW will crunch aerodynamic and other calculations in Iceland with high performance computers run by inexpensive renewable power. Above, the BMW Mini.

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You could call it a crash landing.

German car and motorcycle stalwart BMW is transferring crash simulations and other high performance computing to Iceland, where the country's 100 percent renewable electricity and year round "free" chilling will slash carbon emissions and costs.

BMW plans to run 10 high performance computing clusters in a data center outside Reykjavik owned by London-based hosting company Verne Global. Verne opened the center recently in a former NATO munitions base in Keflavik, about 29 miles southwest of the capital, partnered with British telecom firm Colt.

Iceland generates all of its electricity from renewable sources - a lot from hydro. Above, the island's Dettifoss waterfall, Europe's largest by volume.

Iceland is connected to Europe and North America by sub-Atlantic fiber.

The country generates all of its electricity from renewable sources - about 75 percent from hydro, and 25 percent from geothermal - and is trying to lure industries like data centers to tap into that. Utilities including state-owned Landsvirkjun are also offering long term, competitive prices that will hold attractively steady in an unsure world of volatile fossil fuel prices.

Icelandic data centers like Verne's also virtually eliminate the cost and energy normally required to keep a data center cool.  Such refrigeration can account for over half of a data center's energy consumption.

The Verne center banishes fancy air conditioning systems by taking advantage of temperatures that on average don't dip below 32 degrees F or above 56 degrees F throughout the year.

According to a Verne press release, BMW will reduce the cost of power for the applications by up to 82 percent. It will also cut CO2 emissions by an estimated 3,935 tons (U.S)  metric tons, or the equivalent of burning 380,000 U.S. gallons (1.46 million liters) of gasoline.

The applications consume 6.31 gigawatt hours annually. In addition to crash simulations, they include aerodynamic calculations and computer aided design and engineering, which, as Verne points out, BMW uses to develop energy efficient vehicles.

Photos: Mini from BMW. Dettifoss falls from Superbass via Wikimedia.

More from the volcanic island of puffins, trolls and northern lights, on SmartPlanet:

— By on October 10, 2012, 7:47 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure