Friday 23 February 2018

Ireland beat 18 countries to win €850m slice of the Apple empire

The proposed Apple data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, work on which will begin later this year
The proposed Apple data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, work on which will begin later this year
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Ireland beat competition from 18 other countries to secure Apple's new €850m data centre which is due to begin operations in less than 18 months.

And the company has revealed it plans to build as many as eight massive buildings of almost 25,000 square metres each by 2031 to cater for the "rapid expansion in wireless electronic communications, entertainment and working".

The tech giant has sought planning permission from Galway County Council for the first phase of its data centre which will result in up to 300 construction jobs and 150 full-time positions once operational.

Data centres are essentially large halls with an uninterrupted electricity supply which store data from smartphones, tablets and computers including images, video and documents.

Planning documents seen by the Irish Independent, running to more than 800 pages, show that the first phase will involve construction of a "data hall" of 24,505 square metres, which will be 330 metres long, 75 metres wide and 10 meters high.

A separate logistics and administration building of 5,232 square meters, along with a security hut, will also be built, and the entire facility will consume 30MW of power a day, the equivalent use of more than 20,000 homes.

If all eight centres are built, some 240MW a day will be needed - around 15pc of the country's current daily electricity usage.

"Apple are committed that their new data centre facility will be run on 100pc renewable energy from day one," it added, saying a separate planning application will follow for an electricity substation.

In addition, 18 diesel generators will be provided in the event of a power shortage. It intends using electric vehicles "where possible" to move staff and goods on the site, with 16 bicycle and 207 car-parking spaces provided.

The company said another seven additional data centres could be built across the 197-hectare site in additional phases, and the facility would be operational for 50 years.

The planning application was made in the name of Apple Distribution Ltd and is for lands at Derrydonnell near Athenry. Currently owned by Coillte and used for commercial forestry, there will be "no significant" environmental impacts during construction, but up to 10 HGVs every hour may enter the site a peak times.

Some 33 hectares of woodland will be felled and sold. Access to the site, once operational, will be by badge or "biometric clearance". A public "amenity walkway" will be provided, and a nature site used by a local school retained.

Among the reasons why Ireland was chosen from 19 countries include access to a power source and availability of wind energy, along with "major wave power resources" which could become available in the future. Other key factors include close proximity to an airport, while schools and colleges form a "strong local knowledge economy". "Local climate is supportive of 100pc air-cooled data halls," is another reason.

The company expects works to begin by autumn, and that the plant will be operational within 14 months. The overall project will take 15 years to complete.

Irish Independent

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