Thursday 27 June 2019

Data centre surge could be boon for wind energy

Wind energy is expected to account for 36 percentage points of the 40pc target.
Wind energy is expected to account for 36 percentage points of the 40pc target.
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ireland will have to accelerate electricity generation as over €2bn worth of data centres come on stream here over the next five years, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) was warned.

The new centres could increase Ireland's energy demand by 18pc, and make an EU target for the country to generate 40pc of all power from renewable sources by 2020 a more challenging goal. Wind energy is expected to account for 36 percentage points of that 40pc target. About 18pc of Ireland's electricity demand was met by wind power last year.

The IWEA claims the surge in data centre construction could lead to a boon for wind energy companies, with multinationals seeking to power their facilities using green energy. The association has predicted that €1.36bn could need to be invested in Irish renewable energy infrastructure to meet the associated electricity demand.

Multinationals including Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon either already have data centres here, or are planning to build them.

Ireland's temperate climate lowers the cost of operating the data centres, whose equipment can generate a lot of heat inside buildings. That has made Ireland a prime investment target for the infrastructure.

Other firms including Eir, Vodafone, IBM, Ebay, BY and Yahoo already have data centres or are also planning them here, while there are a number of independent data centre operators also involved in the sector in Ireland.

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft currently operate the biggest data centre operations in Ireland, with all of those facilities based in Dublin.

Apple intends to build a huge data centre complex in Athenry, Co Galway. It received the go-ahead for the €850m project from the local council last month. In July, Facebook got the all-clear from Meath County Council to build a €200m data centre in Clonee.

The report for the IWEA was undertaken by Callaghan Engineering, which has worked on a number of data centre projects in Ireland. It reckons that data centre power usage in Ireland currently equates to about 7pc of peak winter electricity demand, and 8.6pc of demand during summer.

Callaghan Engineering consulted with Eirgrid to determine the planned connections from data centres to the electricity grid.

"We expect Irish-based data centres to continue their commitment to clean energy to fuel their considerable electricity demand, constituting a massive economic opportunity for Ireland," according to Kenneth Matthews, the chief executive of IWEA, which is holding its autumn conference in Kilkenny today.

The report also noted that companies are now looking beyond Dublin to build new data centres.

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