Facebook’s €300m Irish data centre site is 100pc powered by renewable energy

14 Sep 2018

From left: Mark Hunter, data centre site manager, Facebook, with Niall McEntegart, data centre operations director of EMEA, Facebook. Image: Robbie Reynolds

Every detail for the Facebook data centre in Clonee has been considered, even a plan for saving the bees.

Facebook’s new €300m data centre park in Clonee, Co Meath, is powered 100pc by renewable energy and boasts the most advanced and energy-efficient data centres in the world, the company said.

It worked with Brookfield Renewables to tap into its wind energy assets in Ireland to not only power the three data centres on the site but also its international headquarters in Dublin.

The social network employs 3,000 people in Ireland. Facebook last month revealed it is one of the most active purchasers of renewable energy in the world today and by 2020, it aims to be supported 100pc by clean and renewable energy.

Since its first wind contract in 2013, Facebook said it has contracted more than three gigawatts of solar and wind energy.

One of the largest construction projects in Ireland

Two men stand beside clusters of servers in Facebook data centre.

From left: Mark Hunter, data centre site manager, Facebook, with Niall McEntegart, data centre operations director of EMEA, Facebook. Image: Robbie Reynolds

Facebook broke ground on the Clonee data centre in 2016 and, during construction, averaged 1,150 people on site per day, peaking at 1,550 per day. This has made it one of the largest construction projects in Ireland for prolonged periods, with 7.2m hours of construction logged.

Facebook has now completed the first two data centre buildings in Clonee and commenced building on the third phase last October. In December, it started serving Facebook applications and services to people all over the world from Clonee.

The total site area is 250 acres, equal to about four Dublin Zoos, and each of the three data centres on the site is 377 metres in length. 58,000 cubic metres of concrete were used, enough to fill 23.6 Olympic swimming pools, while 11,800 tonnes of primary structural steel were used, enough to construct nearly two Eiffel Towers.

In keeping with the environmental theme, the data centre park is accredited as a supporter of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Bees from the facility fly up to 5km from its apiary to benefit local gardens as well as farmer crop yields by up to 30pc due to increased pollination.

“A third of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction because we have drastically reduced the amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites in our landscapes,” Facebook stated. “To offset this, we have added a wider variety of native plants, shrubs and trees on site to provide food for the bees.”

An episode of CSR Clonee

As part of its community outreach – which has seen Facebook invest €2.5m in local projects in regions where it has facilities – the social network is inviting grant applications for projects in Meath aimed at strengthening the local community.

These are projects that address community needs by putting the power of technology to use for community benefit, connecting people online or off, improving local STEM education, or are related to either technology or culture. Examples include investments in tablet computers for local schools and supporting local makerspaces to interest young people in STEM. Prominent projects elsewhere include putting VR stations at a public library in Altoona in Iowa and an initiative to improve literacy levels in Texas.

Further information on the Community Action Grants Programme can be found on the Clonee data centre Facebook page.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years