(2) things "of note" have happened to me recently: First,
after 15 years of trying, I finally wore down the Federal Administration to the
point that they awarded me U.S. citizenship. Second,
I've recently returned from taking my spanking new U.S. passport on its debut
trip to Iceland.
is not to be confused with Greenland. This is easier said than done, given that
Iceland is really quite verdant and green, and Greenland is covered in ice...
harrumph... It's all highly confusing, and given my newfound status as an
American, I now feel fully entitled to suggest loudly, in a shouty twangy
accent, that maybe these guys should, like, get with the program and swap names, yeah?
purpose of my trip was to make another (yet another!) episode of Internet
Evolution's "Web Wide World" video series, which basically involves me wandering around the planet with a
film crew looking at how the Internet affects different countries and cultures,
until the budget runs out or they shut down the Internet -- whichever comes first.
can view the Iceland video below, but the premise is that Iceland is looking to
become the No.1 destination for companies looking to outsource their IT data centers which, as we all know, are the beating heart of the next-generation Internet. The idea is that they will save huge amounts of money by tapping into Iceland's energy grid, which uses geothermal and hydroelectric plants to generate low cost electricity.
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The electricity in Iceland may be really, really cheap, but unfortunately for anyone visiting it (making a documentary video, say) everything else is really, really expensive. In fact, Iceland's just been named as No. 1 on the official list of "most expensive countries in the world." A beer, for instance, costs $10 a pint. (Yes, that's a TEN, which is a lot for a beer, even if it is really good beer, and even if it is called "Viking," which, let's face it, is an absolutely top name, and a fantastic excuse to shout "raaarrrgghhh!" a lot in bars.)
But I digress.
makes an incredible impression as soon as you get off the plane. For
one thing it's a huge island, but it's got a really small population
(300,000 people, or less than the work force at GE). Reykjavik, the capital
city, is tiny. Björk, its most famous export, is even tinier.
of whom, you can actually tell how few people live in Iceland by what me and
the TV chaps came to know as "the one degree of Björk" factor (like
"six degrees of Kevin Bacon," only with one degree, and a Björk).
Example: Ahead of our trip, TV producer James Lambie had been musing out loud in a
hopeful sort of a way about whether all the women in Iceland look like Björk.
As he arrives at our hotel he sees a small attractive woman and thinks to
himself, "Hey, everyone really does look like Björk." And then the penny drops:
It is Björk! Ha!
Oh, and then it turned out that our sound engineer on the shoot, Árni Benediktsson, used to be manager for The
Sugarcubes, Björk's breakout band. You get the idea. It's a small Icelandic world.
you haven't been to Iceland, you should: It is
undoubtedly one of the most absolutely straight up gobsmackingly beautiful
places I've ever visited.
And if you work for a company that's
looking to save money on its data center costs and do its bit for the
environment simultaneously, you now actually have a good work reason/excuse to get
there and check it out (and expense those $10 Vikings).
video below will give you the full details about Iceland's efforts to become a
data center hot spot -- including the hows and whys.
Iceland has work to do before it becomes a primo destination for data centers
(even though Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) both have already allegedly visited
the country with an eye to locating data center resources there). Mainly, this
work involves improving the speed and variety of the fiber optic cables that
connect it to the outside world -- something that will happen in 2009.
of which is interesting, I think, but also is in itself part of another story -- basically, the biggest story of our time.
up close and in person, Iceland's geothermal capabilities are jaw-droppingly
impressive. But my first reaction was to assume "this is Iceland, this
wouldn't work anywhere else." And that's simply not the case. The
fact is that Iceland is far from alone in having the capability to
generate virtually free geothermal energy.
One of the Icelanders we interviewed
for our video was Albert Albertsson, Deputy CEO of the HS
Power Company, a founding father of Iceland's geothermal energy
industry. He told me that the geological conditions for building geothermal
plants are as good, or better, in parts of California and Italy. Then there are
its hydroelectric plants -- the largest of which supposedly generates enough
electricity to power most of Europe.
that raises the obvious question: Why persist in a miasmic fixation with fossil
fuels bought from repressive regimes with appalling human rights records when
better, cheaper alternatives that don't destroy the planet for
our children are available NOW. I mean, it's not like no one's suggested an alternative plan.
didn't cover this "bigger picture" in our video because, ummm, that's not
what the video is about. But it bears thinking about, especially for someone
who just attained citizenship in one of the biggest users of fossil fuels in
Click below to watch the video: raaarrrgghhh!
— Stephen Saunders, Founder, Internet Evolution