Experts in Building Environments™

Verne Global Data Center Exceeds Expectations for Efficiency and Capacity
Verne Global Data Center Exceeds Expectations for Efficiency and Capacity
Project at a Glance

The Verne Global Data Center in Keflavik, Iceland, was designed to be the world’s first carbon-neutral data center.


The Data Center team needed a free cooling solution that could take advantage of the renewable power resources available in Iceland — hydroelectricity from glacial rivers and geothermal steam — as well the island’s moderate temperatures and dew points.


Eaton-Williams, a Nortek Global HVAC brand, designed and commissioned a unique fresh air free cooling system to provide year-round precision control with no mechanical cooling and no chillers based on a joint design created in partnership with Colt.


The N+1 data center achieved an impressive 1.21 PUE.

After two years of operation, the actual efficiency of the world’s first carbon-neutral data center, Verne Global in Keflavik, Iceland, has exceeded expectations. Those initial expectations were high, with efficiency estimated to be 80% savings in electrical energy costs of the cooling system, which uses 100% outdoor air to cool the servers. Not only did the data center meet those efficiency goals, it surpassed them.

“We learned that the cooling units are operating with better efficiency than initial estimates,” said Tate Cantrell, Chief Technology Officer for Verne Global. “We did stress the system and it was still efficient. In addition, we doubled capacity in 2013. We also learned an interesting fact about our infrastructure capacity since the data center opened in 2012. Typically, customers will ask for 1MW of power but they only utilize 60 to 70%. But our customers will ramp up to 100% and ask for more. And we were able to meet that.”

Taking Optimum Advantage

The free cooling system was selected to cool the data center because it could utilize the renewable power resources available in Iceland — hydroelectricity from glacial rivers and geothermal steam. The cooling system at Verne Global was specifically designed to take advantage of another natural resource of Iceland, its climate of moderate temperatures and dew points. The climate’s air temperatures range from around freezing 32° F (0° C) to 56° F (13.3° C), perfect conditions that enable Verne Global to achieve impressive reductions in the amount of electricity used to cool the servers in the data center.

By bringing in cool outdoor air and circulating only that natural air in the server rooms of the data center, Verne Global has eliminated the need for mechanical cooling from chillers or other equipment with compressors. In typical data centers, mechanical cooling systems can account for more than 50% of a data center’s power usage.

Customizing a Proven Design

Verne Global selected Colt Data Center Services to construct the modular data center design. Colt in turn partnered with Nortek Air Solutions brand Eaton-Williams on the cooling system. Colt and Eaton-Williams had partnered previously on the Colt data center near London with its Critical Cooling System. That facility had been accredited with the Uptime Institute’s Management & Operations (M&O) Stamp of Approval.

After learning the extent of Verne Global’s commitment to efficiency and sustainability, the Colt and Eaton-Williams engineers worked with the Verne Global team to develop a cooling solution that started with the design of the modular cooling system at that London data center and then customized it to use 100% outdoor air in the Iceland climate.

The solution incorporated complex algorithms to provide the correct levels of cooling without using mechanical cooling. ”It was a mammoth task that involved taking full advantage of the ambient air conditions and designing the required parameters,” said Jeff Muir, Eaton-Williams engineering manager.

“The system knowledge of those engineers was impressive and inspired confidence in their design,” said Cantrell. Over the course of the design process, a team from Verne Global visited the Eaton-Williams production facilities in the U.K. several times to consult with the project engineers there and had glowing reviews each time, according to Cantrell.

Impressive Results

The end result of that teamwork was an N+1 cooling system customized with primary cooling being supplied by direct free cooling from the outside air. Each unit has multiple variable speed electronically commutated (EC) fans to precisely match air flow to the cooling demand in order to further reduce energy use and provide N+1 resilience.

The system and its controls help ensure that temperature levels in the data center are maintained at 18°C to 27°C (64.4°F to 80.6°F) with humidity between 30% and 70% RH by the primary system of direct free cooling. Secondary cooling is via indirect free air with a glycol heat exchanger. Since the opening of the data center, they have used 100% free cooling in either a direct or indirect mode. This cooling system efficiency contributes to the data center’s impressive overall PUE that has been tested to 1.21.

Bonus Benefit for Customers

An unexpected bonus benefit of the cooling system‘s efficiency was discovered by the data center operations team after the system was operating for some time. “We learned that our customers are becoming more efficient at the IT level. Due to the efficiency of the fan sizing and the pressures, we can get an extra degree of cooling and for that one extra degree of cooling, our customers’ servers are operating more efficiently,” Cantrell explained.

Multiple Support Sources

For more advanced maintenance issues, Eaton-Williams tested and certified a service and support partner in Iceland, so that Verne Global would have support 24/7 for the cooling system. “Being located on an island, the availability and immediacy of this local support was important,” Cantrell said. Eaton-Williams continues to work closely with the local support provider to ensure that the Verne Global cooling system maintains its efficiency and reliability.

For additional support the on-site maintenance and operations staff of Verne Global received two weeks of training from Eaton-Williams to learn the operations and control of the cooling system.

Mission Success

Verne Global’s mission is to develop data centers in optimized geographic areas that offer companies the best total cost of ownership and 100% renewable power without a price premium. With that mission in mind, the logical question is “would you use the same system for another data center?” Cantrell says, “Absolutely…we would use the same free cooling system again – even where you wouldn’t expect to use a free cooling system such as this one. We have the engineering expertise and experience to do it successfully again.”

He cites confidence as paramount for a successful project of this caliber. ”We had confidence in Colt as a partner and saw that they brought a knowledgeable cooling system supplier, Eaton-Williams, with them to our team. It would have been a deal breaker if we would not have had that confidence.”

Leading the Industry Trend

There’s a reason that Verne Global takes pride in the sustainability of their Iceland facility, according to Cantrell. “The results and success of our data center make us proud to be partially responsible for the emphasis on renewable energy for data centers.”

“The data center business used to be about the technology, but now the trend is to think of data centers in terms of infrastructure and the business aspects of data center real estate. What works is what’s good for business. And our experience has shown the data center industry that sustainable design and free cooling not only works, but also that it’s good for business and good for our customers.”