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Data centres ‘could use up to 31pc’ of power by 2030, study reveals


An Amazon data centre

An Amazon data centre

An Amazon data centre

Data centres could be drawing as much as 1.5GW of energy from Ireland’s electricity grid by 2030 – the equivalent that would power about 1.1 million homes – a study has predicted.

The electricity usage would represent 31pc of all the power available on the grid by that time.

One big data centre can use as much power as a large regional town such as Drogheda.

The prediction comes as Ireland faces a huge challenge in achieving ambitious targets for the use of renewable energy. As much as 80pc of the country’s energy needs must be produced from renewable sources by 2030.

But with energy demand increasing – significantly due to the construction of data centres – meeting that goal faces hurdles.

However, the report this morning from research group BloombergNEF, in partnership with industrial power management technology multinational Eaton and renewable energy firm Statkraft, has insisted that data centres can play a role in facilitating the increased penetration of renewable energy.

Ireland is a significant base for data centres that serve international markets. Multinationals such as Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all have data centres here that help fuel cloud-based platforms that serve their customers.

Irish data centres will account for about 15pc of the country’s total electricity consumption in 2021, according to the report.

It revealed that on a medium-range projection, data centres will be consuming 24pc of all Ireland’s power availability by 2030.

“Data centres can be part of the solution for achieving higher renewable energy penetrations in Europe,” insisted Michael Kenefick, the lead author of the report and a decentralised energy analyst at BNEF. “Their on-site energy resources, such as uninterruptable power supplies and back-up generators, could in future be brought to bear to help support the grid. And computing tasks could also be shifted to times – or locations – of high wind and solar resource.”

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Ireland already has very tight capacity constraints on its electricity grid, with concerns that coming winters could see demand exceed supply.

Last week, the vice president with Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG), Seamus McCabe, said Ireland is facing a “tall order” to deploy 5GW of offshore wind energy by the Government’s targeted date of 2030.

GIG recently acquired the developer of the planned 400MW Sceirde Rocks windfarm off the Galway coast, marking its first investment in Ireland. It’s likely to cost in the region of €1bn to build.

“Driven by growth in demand for computing and data storage services, both from businesses and end users, hyperscale and colocation data centres could account for as much as 24pc of electricity demand in Ireland in 2030, 8pc in the Netherlands, and 5pc in the UK,” noted Karina Rigby, a divisional president at Eaton in EMEA.

“Ireland is a mature market, where hyperscale operators have been investing for years, and is likely to keep growing despite some challenges integrating data centres into the power system.” 

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