BMW Shifts Supercomputing To Iceland To Save Emissions

BMW wheel car logo © Teerapun Shutterstock

BMW saves 3600 tonnes of carbon – while its cars generate millions more

Flash German car maker BMW has moved its high performance computing (HPC) to a data centre in Iceland powered by renewable energy, to save around 3600 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

The firm is moving ten of its HPC clusters, consuming 6.31 GWh of energy each year annually, from Germany over to Verne Global’s data centre in Keflavik, Iceland which uses electricity from 100 percent renewable sources – Iceland’s geothermal and hydroelectric generators.

The move gives Verne its first big name end user customer in its green data centre (previous announcements concerned service providers like Colt) – though perhaps BMW might not be the first name it would have chosen to promote a green data centre.

The ultimate driving machine ?

3D graphic car CAD CAE HPC © Verticalarray Shutterstock

BMW will save around 80 percent of the power costs of running calculations including crash test and aerodynamics simulations, as well as CAD/CAE (computer aided design and engineering) calculations.

This is of course a tiny gesture, compared with BMW’s overall contribution to climate change. The company makes a million cars a year, each of which produces around five tonnes of greenhouse gas every year – so five million tonnes from this year’s production alone, and that omits about 100,000 motorbikes.

So the company saved the equivalent of one year’s emission from 700 cars, a lot less than one thousandth of the cars the company makes each year, and a far smaller proportion of its emissions overall since these cars will have several years’ of service.

Iceland geothermal energy ©  Gislij20 Shutterstock

Still, the reduction is real, and so is the demonstration of the Verne’s capabilities, along with the practicality of shifting major computing services to a country half an ocean away.

BMW tested the network connections from Munich to Iceland, said Jeff Monroe, CEO of Verne Global.  “The test results were a critical factor in their decision to place production systems in Iceland.”

The move may also have had as much to do with power costs as the emissions. With a big surplus and reliable long-term supplies of renewable energy, Iceland’s utilities offer very cheap deals and long term contracts. Monroe said this is one of Verne’s “core competitive advantages”, and prices are guaranteed: “We can offer customers a low, inflation-protected rate for up to 20 years – a significant consideration in light of rising long-term electricity costs in Europe, the UK and US.”

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