Thursday 27 October 2016

Technology giant raises energy security fears with Government

Published 29/09/2016 | 02:30

Microsoft Ireland Ireland boss Cathriona Hallahan
Microsoft Ireland Ireland boss Cathriona Hallahan

The boss of Microsoft Ireland, Cathriona Hallahan, has raised concerns with the Government regarding the security of energy supply in Ireland to facilitate the continued deployment of data centres in the country.

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Data centres consume huge amounts of power and Ireland has become a favoured international location for such facilities, with billions of euro being spent on projects by blue-chip multinationals.

Companies including Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google all have or are developing major data centres here.

Ms Hallahan, who's managing director of Microsoft Ireland, raised the concerns regarding energy supply with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, during a meeting.

Earlier this year, Microsoft got permission to build four new data centres in Dublin that will probably cost as much as €900m to construct.

It has also spent over €800m on its existing data centre operations at Grange Castle at Clondalkin in west Dublin, and it's one of the biggest facilities of its type in Europe.

The data centre operations are used by Microsoft as cloud computing hubs. It previously said that it Dublin data centres are approaching capacity "ahead of the most conservative predictions of five years ago".

Eirgrid, the State-owned company that manages Ireland's electricity network, said this year in a report that a "key driver" for electricity demand here over the next number of years will be the connection of large data centres to the grid.

It said that based on current data centre deployment, the number of data centres under construction or contracted for construction, and the number of enquiries for connections, the energy demand for data centres in Ireland could jump almost eight-fold by 2025.

Eirgrid said that the possibility of the extra demand being added is a "significant" issue, and could result in peak energy demand being 35pc higher than that recorded between 2014 and 2015.

Ireland's temperate climate - which helps to reduce the cost of cooling cavernous data centres crammed with heat-generating computer servers - has catapulted it to one of the top global spots for data centres.

Most of them have been built in or around Dublin. But Apple was given the all-clear this year to build an €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway.

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