EngineNode Clonee data centre faces legal challenge for climate impact

26 Aug 2021

Image: © Shuo/Stock.adobe.com

If constructed, it is claimed that the Co Meath facility will require 180MW of electricity annually.

EngineNode’s proposed Clonee data centre that got the green light last month is now facing a legal challenge from local residents for its potential impact on the climate.

Father and daughter Mannix Coyne and Amy Coyne brought a challenge in the High Court yesterday (25 August) against An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to allow construction of EngineNode’s data storage facility to go ahead in the 24.5 hectare site, the Irish Times reports.

According to the report, the High Court responded to the Coynes’ claim that the decision to grant permission on the development in July was invalid by saying their case raised important points of domestic and EU law. If constructed, it is claimed that the facility will require 180MW of electricity annually and generate around 1pc of Ireland’s annual CO2 emissions.

In November 2019, Irish data centre company EngineNode applied for a 10-year planning permission for the development of a data storage facility. The planned campus includes four two-storey data storage buildings, a two-storey office building and a storage centre, among other facilities.

Planning permission was given for the development, which is located near Facebook’s Clonee data centre, last month despite appeals to stop the project by environmental groups.

With the new legal challenge, no construction on the site can be carried out until the matter returns before the court.

The cost of data centres

This is not the first time the data centre has faced backlash over its potential detrimental environmental impact.

Last year, environmental groups An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment lodged appeals against Meath County Council’s original grant of permission.

They said that Ireland already hosted a disproportionate number of data centres in western Europe and that any additional infrastructure would put pressure on the national grid.

Meanwhile, an Amazon data centre development in Louth was put on hold last month following a complaint from An Taisce, which said authorities had not considered the environmental impact and the effect on Ireland’s climate action commitments.

Ireland is becoming one of the world’s most desirable locations for data centres. Last year, TikTok joined tech giants such as Google, AWS and Microsoft that have selected the country as a data hub.

However, according to a report by grid operator EirGrid, data centres will put added pressure on electricity supply in Ireland and could account for 29pc of demand by 2028.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic