Data centres could help us meet clean energy targets – IWEA

7 Oct 2015

Kenneth Matthews, IWEA. Image: Luke Maxwell

With us getting closer to the 2020 deadline for reaching Ireland’s renewable energy creation targets, the Irish Wind Energy Association’s (IWEA) CEO, Kenneth Matthews, sees the unlikely source of data centres as a great hope for meeting them.

The IWEA is firmly placed as one of the largest renewable energy advocacy organisations in Ireland, largely due to the fact that the vast majority of Ireland’s renewable energy demands are met by on-shore wind energy.

Based on findings from the most recent Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland report on Ireland’s renewable energy production, wind energy accounts for nearly half – 42.8pc – of the country’s entire output.

This, of course, is due to Ireland’s weather being not-so favourable for solar energy production, and because strong winds from the west coast are a regular feature.

In March of this year, Ireland reportedly reached the halfway mark for our renewable energy target of 16pc, but with just over four years to the 2020 deadline, it is looking increasingly less likely that we’ll actually reach that figure.

If we don’t, the IWEA’s Kenneth Matthews tells, we as a state could be facing levies in the region of hundreds of millions of euro.

However, following the announcements that two of the world’s biggest tech companies – Apple and Facebook – are to build data centres here that will be powered entirely by renewable wind energy, Matthews and the IWEA are rather hopeful that those targets could still be met.

“We know that about 900MW of data centre demand is likely to come to Ireland over the next number of years, from a range of global ICT companies,” Matthews says. “That demand requires and wants to be met by renewable energy sources, and the cheapest and most abundant renewable resource to match that is on-shore wind.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic