Business Irish

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Gas-powered data centre gets nod as grid demand spirals

Orion Reo, a company connected to Oaktree, plans to link into a nearby high pressure gas pipeline to power specially designed generators that will supply the proposed 31,537 sq m development
Orion Reo, a company connected to Oaktree, plans to link into a nearby high pressure gas pipeline to power specially designed generators that will supply the proposed 31,537 sq m development

Fearghal O'Connor

A data centre project that will be powered by the gas network rather than the electricity network has been given the go-ahead by planning authorities.

The development, in Orion Business Park in Dublin 15, has been planned to try and circumvent the growing issues around the huge energy usage of data centres developed in this country in recent years.

The Blanchardstown data centre is to be developed by a company linked to investment fund Oaktree Capital. It is planning to build three separate gas-powered data centres on the a 5.73-hectare site previously owned by logistics firm Brian Daly Transport,

Orion Reo, a company connected to Oaktree, plans to link into a nearby high pressure gas pipeline to power specially designed generators that will supply the proposed 31,537 sq m development,

The Dublin 15 area has seen huge industrial development, including other power-hungry data centres, in recent times. This newspaper revealed last year that ESB is facing demands to more than double its entire electricity supply for Dublin to feed proposed new data centres.

Eirgrid has indicated that new power connections over 10mw in Ballycoolin and the wider area "would require deep reinforcement of the current grid infrastructure which is already operating near maximum capacity", said documents submitted as part of the planning process for the Oaktree development.

That could take up to seven years, "restricting the growth or creation of schemes/developments in the area with high electricity demands". said the document from specialist company Bitpower Energy Solutions.

It has designed a system to power the three new data centres "without imposing on Ireland's electricity network".

"The Natural Gas network is often overlooked as a power source and consequently is underutilised," it said.

Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) has "strategically identified data centres as a growth sector for their business" and has carried out a network analysis exercise to confirm the existing infrastructure at Cappagh Road has the capacity to service the proposed data centres.

The Orion planning file also contained a robust defence of data centres in Ireland.

"In recent times there has been a growing argument that data centres, despite costing hundreds of millions of euros and imposing heavily on Ireland's electrical infrastructure don't create very many jobs," it said.

But this was an incomplete way to look at their impact on employment, said the document: "If a company was a person, one might argue that the data centre is its brain.

"The human brain only weighs an average of three pounds, and thus accounts for only a few percent of the body's weight yet it uses 20pc of the body's oxygen and 25pc of its glucose," it said.

The document drew a comparison between the brain and the jobs created at data centres.

Sunday Indo Business

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