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An Taisce seeking to block development of new data centres being planned by Energia subsidiary


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One of the country’s leading environmental groups, An Taisce, is seeking to block the development of new data centres being planned by energy group, Energia, in north Dublin over concerns about the cumulative negative impact of such facilities on climate change.

An Taisce has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála against the recent decision of Fingal County Council to grant planning permission for two new data centres on lands adjacent to the Huntstown Power Station near Finglas.

The €87m development by Energia subsidiary, Huntstown Power Company, which will require the demolition of two existing houses, also involves the provision of 58 emergency generators and seven water storage tanks on a site that will be enclosed by a 6.5 metre wall.

The two data centres will be housed in three-storey buildings with a combined floor space of over 75,000m².

The approval of the project by Fingal County Council comes at a time when the Government is expected to announce a new policy that is likely to support the proposal by Eirgrid, the operator of the national grid, that no further data centres should be built in Dublin.

An Taisce has expressed concern at the pressure placed on Ireland’s energy resources by the large number of data centres in the Republic.

It is estimated there are currently 70 data centres in operation in Ireland using 900 megawatts of electricity with a further eight under construction and expected to use an additional 250MW.

An Taisce’s planning and environmental planning officer, Phoebe Duvall, said Ireland, and particularly Dublin, already hosted an enormous and disproportionate amount of data infrastructure in western Europe.

The body claimed the annual growth in the storage of electronic data is “a major global climate and resource consumption issue.”

“This proliferation of data infrastructure has largely gone unchecked and data centres now consume 11pc of Ireland’s total grid-generated electricity,” Ms Duvall pointed out.

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She noted that the Irish Academy of Engineers and Eirgrid have projected that this share will increase to between 27pc and 31pc by 2029.

In addition, Ms Duvall said the IAE had predicted that data centres would add up to 3 million tonnes of CO₂ to Ireland’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2028 which she claimed was incompatible with Ireland meeting its legally binding EU emission and renewable energy targets.

“By increasing overall energy demand in Ireland through the uninhibited development of data centres, we are actively diluting the end benefit of renewable energy penetration that has been created and added to the grid over the past 20-30 years,” she added.

An Taisce noted that Huntstown Power Company had calculated that the development was likely to generate 450,000 tonnes of CO₂ per year which would represent approximately 0.82pc of Ireland’s total annual emissions.

It has challenged the company’s views that the two proposed data centres would only have a “slight impact” on climate.

“We submit that a project that contributes almost 1pc to Ireland’s overall yearly greenhouse gas generation, while also contributing to continued reliance on gas for electricity production, has significantly more than a ‘slight’ impact on climate, particularly when looked at cumulatively with other data centre developments in the country,” said Ms Duvall.

While An Taisce welcomed the company’s commitment to provide additional renewable energy capacity to exceed the power demand of the new data centres, it said there were no specifics about such plans which should be delivered before or in tandem with the proposed data centres.

An Taisce also highlighted how both Eirgrid and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities had recently expressed concern about the level of energy use by data centres and the implications for Ireland’s energy security.

It claimed allowing the project to go ahead in advance of resolving grid capacity issues, energy supply problems and data centre grid connection policy issues would be “premature.”

Consultants acting for Huntstown Power Company said the new data centres were being built in the “most energy efficient location.”

They claimed co-locating the proposed data centres next to the existing power station was consistent with Eirgrid’s connection policy for data centres which allowed the proposed development access to a necessary electricity power supply.

They stated the company had also considered the sustainable use of water and heat in the design of the facility.

Huntstown Power Company has claimed the operation of the data centres will create 181 new jobs, while up to another 1,050 jobs will be created during the construction phase.

Energia, whose existing gas-fired power plant at Huntstown can provide up to 20pc of Ireland’s total energy needs, is also developing a biogas plant on the site.

The CRU declined to make a submission on the project.

A ruling in the case by An Bord Pleanála is due by mid-September.

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