Intel will use four times as much power as Galway city in Leixlip
US giant is plotting four-fold increase in power usage as part of expansion at microchip plant in Leixlip
Intel plans to quadruple the amount of power it uses at its Co Kildare plant in a significant expansion of its microchip manufacturing facility.
The company is one of the only firms in the State with a direct link to the national grid, and currently uses an equivalent amount of power to Galway city.
But Intel needs a new supply if it expands its operations in Leixlip, with sources saying it wants to increase it four-fold.
National grid operator EirGrid last week announced it was planning a significant upgrade of its network to supply electricity to the plant.
This would involve the development of a new 220 kilovolt (kV) electricity substation beside the Intel plant and new circuits to the facility.
An upgrade of the Maynooth to Woodland 220 kV electricity line located to the north of the plant will also be required at a later point.
Sources said that a planning application was likely to be submitted in the spring, with a view to energising in 2020 or 2021.
The cost could be as much as €50m, and it is not clear whether Intel will pay, or whether the costs will be shared. The connection will either be via an overhead line, or underground cable.
Asked about its plans to boost power, Intel said it was "moving into early stages of a multi-year project" with no significant power usage increase in the early stages. It said it did not "talk in specific detail about any capital infrastructure programmes" when asked whether it would pay for grid upgrades.
Intel currently takes a direct link from the national grid via a 100kV line located south of the plant.
It is understood that political pressure is being applied because the Government wants Intel Ireland to get the global company's next round of investment in facilities.
It has been reported that plants in Ireland, Israel and two in the US are vying for the investment.
The Leixlip factory is an example of the challenges facing EirGrid, with large power-hungry projects like data centres meaning Ireland needs more and more electricity to meet demand.
A document prepared last autumn lays bare the stark nature of the challenge.
Between 2018 and 2027, EirGrid expects that power demand from large energy users like the Leixlip site will have increased ten-fold.
The grid operator anticipates total power demand in Ireland could increase by as much as 57pc in that period.
Although there is a surplus of electricity generation capacity on the island at present, as demand grows and older plants close it will put pressure on the system.
However, there are indications that energy demand is not growing at the same rate as the economy, with additional capacity also coming on stream from renewables.
Even with that surplus, it's likely the grid will need substantial investment as much of the extra power demand will come in the eastern part of the country, and electricity generated elsewhere on the island will have to be transferred where it is needed.