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New Amazon data centre in Meath will use enough energy to power most of Kilkenny

An Taisce claims that existing and planned data centres likely to be built over the next seven years will demand enough energy to supply 24 million homes

An Amazon data centre

Gordon Deegan

Online giant, Amazon has secured the green light for a new data centre in County Meath despite opposition from An Taisce.

This follows An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for the project after concluding that the proposal by Tunis Properties LLC would not have a significant impact on climate or legally binding national emission targets in relation to greenhouse gases.

The project was stalled after An Taisce last July appealed a decision by Meath County Council to grant planning for the 48MW data centre for the IDA business park on the outskirts of Drogheda.

By comparison, the whole of Kilkenny consumes 60MW of power according to Eirgrid.

Amazon already operates a data centre at the business park and Amazon Web Services (AWS) has stated that cumulative demands for three phases of data centre development at the IDA business park will have a maximum demand of 144MW.

AWS state that the 144MW equates to around 473,040 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Their appeal submission by John Spain & Associates that this is a worst case scenario and will likely decrease as the national fuel mix decreases its carbon intensity as the grid reaches the target 70% renewable mix by 2030.

The new data centre represents the second phase of development at the business park.

The appeals board inspector in the case, Barry O'Donnell recommended that planning permission be granted after pointing out that indirect CO2 emissions from electricity to serve the facility do not count towards or affect Ireland’s reduced emissions target and will instead be regulated under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which sets EU-wide targets for sectors within the scheme.

An Amazon commissioned report has estimated that Amazon Web Services (AWS) has made a capital spend of €2 billion on its network of data centres here over the past decade.

In their appeal, An Taisce contended that councils and the appeals board are granting permission for data centres on a case-by-case basis without adequately addressing cumulative impacts of energy use.

Figures provided in the appeal state that there are 70 data centres in operation using 900MW and there are a further eight under consideration, expected to use an additional 250MW.

An Taisce stated that growth has been unchecked and data centres now consume 11 per cent of Ireland’s grid-generated electricity and it is projected to grow to 31 per cent by 2027.

An Taisce further claimed that uninhibited development of data centres is diluting the benefits of renewable energy generation that has taken place in the last 20-30 years.

An Taisce claimed that existing and planned data centres likely to be built over the next seven years are projected to require 12.5 terawatts of additional power beyond current generation amounts - enough to power 24 million homes.

In response, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) submission stated that it is not a question of there being a disproportionate number of data centres in Ireland.

Mr Spain stated that planning policy supports the delivery of data centres in Ireland and a location such as the subject site is considered an optimal location for these developments.

He further contended that if permission were to be withheld for data centres for the reasons outlined in the An Taisce appeal, no large industrial energy development would be able to secure development, thereby stalling economic growth.

Mr Spain stated that the proposal “represents an important part of AWS’s investment in Ireland”.

He added that the appeal failed to acknowledge that Ireland is recognised as a sustainable location for data centre development, in planning policy terms.

With planning permission secured, AWS is now in a position to apply to Eirgrid to secure a connection agreement for the provision of electricity.

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