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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 25 March, 2018

How Ireland wants to become the data centre capital of the world

The government is scoping out possible sites for locating new data centres.

Google data centre, Dublin
Google data centre, Dublin

THE GOVERNMENT, IN partnership with the IDA, are working to identify sites around the country that would be suitable for large data centres.

The proposed plan, which was first mooted before the summer, was brought to Cabinet earlier this week for approval.

The Taoiseach is pushing for Ireland to become the data centre capital of the world, and to continue the trend of large tech companies building data storage facilities here.

A the Fine Gael think-in this year, Leo Varadkar said he intends to make an amendment to the Strategic Infrastructure Act to treat data centres as part of Ireland’s strategic infrastructure so as to “enable the planning process to work more smoothly”.

It’s understood the introduction of fast-track planning permission for data centres will require legislation, which is currently being developed by the Department of Enterprise.

Any new law will prevent a repeat of the €850 million Apple project in Athenry, Galway, which was severely delayed.

Last week, the High Court cleared the way for the data centre after a near three-year wait for the project to get off the ground.

The court today upheld An Bord Pleanála’s earlier decision to approve the centre despite local complaints about potential traffic problems and environmental impact from the 116,000 sq m facility.

shutterstock_661115089 Source: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

Varadkar met with Apple last month and expressed his shared frustration at the legal and planning delays, which he said had delayed investment in the west.

Ireland has become a hub for data centres in recent years, with tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Apple all setting up major European data storage facilities.

The country is seen as an attractive location for the facilities for a range of reasons, including the cool climate, which reduces running costs for heat-generating computers, its connectivity to the US via transatlantic data cables, and a favourable data-protection regime for tech multinationals.

Amazon alone has several data centres in and around Dublin, including three near Tallaght. It is planning new facilities near Dublin Airport and, most recently, a data centre the size of three football pitches at Mulhuddart, in north-west Dublin.

Source: Google/YouTube

The Taoiseach said centres, like the one in Athenry, will bring much-needed investment and jobs to the region. However, in reality data centres, once operational, only employ around 30 people. It is the building of the large data centres which bring jobs to an area.

However, another downside of more data centres locating in Ireland has also been highlighted.

An all-island generation capacity statement, which includes forecasts to 2026, shows Ireland’s energy demand will shoot up over the next decade due to the spread of data centres across the country.

EirGrid predicts theses centres will consume 20% of Ireland’s power generation capacity by 2025, according to the country’s main grid operator.

With Ireland’s increasing demand for energy, the government is on a collision course with EU officials over renewable-energy targets.

It’s understood Cabinet members were also briefed about details of the strategic plan, which aim to investigate how these centres could operate through sustainable and renewable energy sources.

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