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Amazon secures planning permission for two new data centres in north Dublin

The US multinational has estimated that between 15 and 58 staff will work at the site while up to 400 will be employed during construction.

Image: DCC/MAC Architects

AMAZON HAS SECURED planning permission for two new data centres in north Dublin.

The permission comes despite objections from environmental groups which expressed concern that it would place further pressure on limited energy supplies and have an adverse environmental impact

Dublin City Council has approved an application made by Amazon through Colliers Properties for permission to construct two new data centres on a 3.75-hectare site in Clonshaugh Business and Technology Park.

A division of the US multinational, Amazon Web Services, already has a data centre at the same location.

The new data centres will be housed in two new two-storey buildings which will have a gross floor area respectively of 12,875m² and 1,445m² on a site of the former Ricoh building which is earmarked for demolition.

The larger building will have two additional mezzanine levels.

A dozen emergency generators will also be located in adjoining compounds.

Amazon has estimated that between 15 and 58 staff will work at the data centres over a 24-hour period, while up to 400 staff will be employed during the construction phase of the project.

The development by Amazon comes at a time when the energy consumption levels of data centres have come under renewed focus due to concerns over capacity issues among energy providers.

Official figures showed data centres accounted for 14% of all electricity demand in the Republic last year with Eirgrid estimating they could account for 29% by 2028.

Members of South Dublin County Council are currently locked in a row with the planning regulator after they imposed an effective ban on all future developments of new data centres in its administrative area

Earlier this year Eirgrid said it would not be providing any new grid connections for data centres in the Dublin region until 2028 due to capacity constraints.

However, the Commission of Regulation of Utilities ruled out a moratorium on new data centres but said the location of future facilities and their ability to generate their own power supplies would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

In its application, consultants for Amazon said the company was committed to building a sustainable business “for our customers and the planet.”

They pointed out that part of Amazon’s commitment to be net zero carbon across its business by 2040 was to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.

Amazon told council planners that its new 115-megawatt wind farm project in Galway which became operational this year would support the company’s data centres in the Republic and add to its existing wind farm projects in Cork and Donegal.

Amazon said the three wind farm projects combined were projected to deliver 229MW of renewable energy capacity each year and reducing emissions by 366,000 tonnes of CO₂ per annum – the equivalent of powering 185,000 homes for a year

The company said it was committed to offtake 100% of the power from its renewable energy projects without relying on additional public funding through the Public Service Obligation levy.

It pointed out it was the first company in Ireland to sign up for unsubsidised Corporate Power Purchase Agreements.

Through the use of an innovative cooling solution, Amazon said the two new data centres would use as little as 264m³ of water for cooling annually.

Amazon said its operations in Ireland sustain 8,700 jobs including 3,100 direct staff and another 3,900 working for contractors.

The company claims it increased economic output in Ireland by almost €7.5bn over the past decade and directly invested €4.4bn over the same period.

Speaking this week, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that data centres are “hugely important to really large employers in Ireland”. 

On data centres, Amazon said it had increased its spend with Irish contractors 14-fold since 2015 to €228m.

Amazon said its investment in data centres in Dublin city supported over 2,300 jobs in 2020 and benefited from €80m in capital expenditure.

Environmental group, Not Here Not Now, which opposed the development of the new data centres, said the proposed use of diesel emergency generators would result in fossil fuels being used to power them on occasion.

The group, which is campaigning for an end to fossil fuel exploration, said it was crucial that data centres are powered directly by onsite renewable energy generation such as rooftop solar farms or new offsite generation such as offshore wind farms.

“If the plant cannot be powered fully by renewable energy, it will lead to an increase in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030, contravening the Climate Act, Climate Action Plan and National Planning Framework,” said the group’s spokesperson, Angela Deegan.

Not Here Not Now also claimed it was crucial that Dublin City Council considered the cumulative impact of the energy demand of all Amazon’s data centres in Ireland on a nationwide basis.

Another environmental group, Gluaiseacht, claimed the lack of information about the power rating of the proposed new data centres made it “unclear how big of a energy guzzling monster is being added to the national grid.”

In its ruling Dublin City Council said the proposed data centres were compatible with the zoning of the site and noted there were several other data centres within the business park including an existing permission for one on the same site

While the new data centres would have some net impact on the area, council planners ruled they would not have any significant adverse effects either on their own or in combination with existing data centres.

One of the conditions of the grant of planning permission requires Amazon to pay a development contribution of almost €1.3 million to the council.

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About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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