Another industry lured in by Iceland’s energy supply is data centres, which look after other companies’ computer servers. Verne Global is headquartered in the UK but chose to put its 200,000 sq ft data centre at Keflavik, the former Nato base which is also home to Iceland’s main airport. In other countries the cost of cooling can account for around half a data centre’s energy costs, Verne’s Styrmir Hafliðason says, whereas in Iceland they need only open a grate in the wall and suck in the chilly air from outside.
“Iceland has that perfect equilibrium for running and maintaining data centres,” he adds.
The good conditions have attracted users of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which take vast amounts of power to “mine”.
But while Verne caters to those in one of its vast, noisy data halls, it is keen to grow its premium “tier three” service, which has been used by the likes of BMW and Volkswagen to design cars and simulate the effects of wind and crashes.
Iceland is perhaps most famous for its seafood. Its fiercely-protected fisheries are among the world’s most bountiful, providing 1.2m tons of cod, whiting and other species last year, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs both at sea and in numerous processing plants.
But Thor Sigfusson thinks the industry could be “so much better”. He started Iceland’s Ocean Cluster, an incubator above a former fish market by the harbour in Reykjavik’s up-and-coming Grandi district that provides space and occasionally investment for entrepreneurs looking to turn bits of cod into more premium products.
His “Silicon Valley of white fish” is home to companies making everything from fish leather shirts and wallets to collagen powder, fish skin wound dressings and premium “extra virgin” cod liver oil.
“Sadly we’re meeting so many fishermen who take the fillet and throw the rest of the fish away”, he says. “From one cod we can maybe get $12 for the fillet. But if we use the whole round we can get $3,500 for each cod.”