Thursday 17 January 2019

Fund plans gas-powered data centres to beat Dublin 15 power shortages

Orion Reo plans to build three new gas-powered data centres in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Stock photo
Orion Reo plans to build three new gas-powered data centres in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Stock photo

Fearghal O'Connor

A company linked to investment fund Oaktree Capital plans to build three new gas-powered data centres in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Orion Reo plans to link into a nearby high-pressure gas pipeline to power specially-designed generators to overcome the mounting pressure on electrical supply in the area. The proposed 31,537sqm development, on a 5.73-hectare site previously owned by logistics firm Brian Daly Transport, is in the Orion Business Park in Dublin 15.

There have been planning delays to some data centres, including the massive Apple proposal in Athenry, Co Galway. The Sunday Independent recently revealed that the ESB is facing demands to more than double its entire electricity supply for Dublin in order to feed proposed new 'power-hungry' 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", according to planning documents.

That could take up to seven years, said the document from specialist company Bitpower Energy Solutions. It has designed a system to power the three new data centres "without imposing upon 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 the business" and has carried out a network-analysis exercise to confirm that the existing infrastructure at Cappagh Road has the capacity to service the proposed data centres.

The Orion planning file contains a robust defence of data centres in Ireland, arguing: "In recent times, there has been a growing argument that data centres, despite costing hundreds of millions of euro and imposing heavily on Ireland's electrical infrastructure, don't create very many jobs."

This, according to the submission, is an incomplete way to look at their impact.

It argues: "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 per cent of the body's weight, yet it uses 20pc of the body's oxygen and 25pc of its glucose.

"Is it so tempting to complain about the energy use of the brain or to argue that something that only accounts for a few per cent of the body's mass doesn't play much of a role?

"Similarly, rather than considering just the few per cent of a company's staff that are directly employed in a data centre, think of all of the company's other jobs that are enabled by the facility."

Sunday Indo Business

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