Today in Cloud

The abundant geothermal energy that Iceland is using to power its new breed of data centers comes at a cost; the sub-surface activity that generates all that hot water also makes the area prone to volcanic eruptions. Grímsvötn erupted last month, bringing darkness to Rekjavik’s normally bright summer skies and causing some limited disruption to European air traffic. However, according to those behind the island’s Thor Data Center, it kept on operating as normal. They’ve even provided pictures of their air filters to demonstrate how little effect the volcano had on air near their facility.

GTherm: Cutting Cost and Quakes From Geothermal Power

Three-year-old startup GTherm has a new approach to tapping the Earth’s heat for power generation at sites where conventional geothermal technologies fall short. The company says it can do it for less cost, and through a safer method, than competing systems.

Today in Cloud

The environmental credentials of cloud computing routinely come under scrutiny, whether it’s environmental campaigners lambasting a data center’s reliance upon coal or proud owners of new data centers pointing out that they’re naturally cooled by glacial meltwater or architectural ideas borrowed from chickens, naturally heated from deep below the earth, or cost-consciously sharing ‘waste’ heat to warm their local communities. The truth, of course, is that some data centers are pretty efficient, and some are very, very dirty. Recent figures from the Uptime Institute suggest an average PUE of 1.8, so there’s still a long way to go. Here on GigaOM, Jeff St. John keeps a close eye on this space, for example commenting on Greenpeace’s data center report cards last month. Elsewhere, Silicon Republic’s Ann O’Dea talks with Tom Raftery of GreenMonk this week. In the piece, Tom clearly argues that the picture is far more complex than environmental campaigners and data center champions typically admit, and he points to some of the areas in which clarity might usefully and achievably be sought. A simple PUE number is no longer enough.

Will California’s Hybrid Feed-In Tariff RAM Program Work?

California’s new Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM) represents an important new move for the state into a feed-in tariff model for solar, wind and other renewable power — but with some critical twists. What are the advantages, and the potential drawbacks, of this reverse auction FiT model?

Today in Cleantech

Natural gas takes over from coal, solar and wind climb 11 percent of America’s power, nuclear power sees a comeback — and carbon emissions don’t get tamped down for an extra 20 years or so. Those are some of the conclusions from a report by energy industry engineering and consulting firm Black & Veatch that tries to predict the United States’ energy mix in the year 2035. First off , B&V thinks that natural gas will provide 40 percent of the United States power and coal only 21 percent, a figure that doesn’t match the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s projection of a 21-percent share for natural gas in 2035. For the short term, low natural gas prices are making it harder to pencil out new renewable energy and nuclear power projects, but still, renewable energy will rise from about 50 gigawatts today to 175 GW by 2035, B&V predicts. As for the geopolitics of capping greenhouse gas emissions, B&V says that probably won’t happen quickly enough to reach reduction targets by 2050. We might have to wait til 2070 instead — but let’s not ask the climate scientists what dire predictions might attach to that analysis.

Today in Cleantech

Compared to wind and solar, geothermal has glided under the radar. However, this week’s news of Vulcan Power’s $100 million-plus round of financing is putting it in the spotlight. Earth2Tech had a Q&A with the firm’s CEO, Robert Warburton, in which he reveals that financing, not technology, is the main hurdle for geothermal projects. It’s not to say that technology doesn’t play a role, only that it’s marked by gradual improvements rather than “game-changing” leaps. Looks like some investors see opportunity in Vulcan Power’s orderly pace, particularly as renewables encroach on the grid.