IDA Ireland looks into advance planning permission for future data centres

16 Oct 2017

More greenfield sites are being scouted for future data centres. Image: AkeTangZa/Shutterstock

Advance planning permission could help avoid delays that plagued Athenry project.

Late last week, the Commercial Court in Dublin sided with An Bord Pleanála’s original decision to grant planning permission to Apple for its Athenry data centre project. The endeavour had been affected by delays after three people had objected to the commencement of the work, two of them from the Athenry area.

Earlier this year, it was reported that IDA Ireland had appointed Jacobs Engineering Ireland (JEI) to identify further greenfield sites that would be suitable locations for large-scale data centres across the country. Ireland is already a major location for data centres, home to sites owned by Google, Amazon and Microsoft among others.

The Irish Times reported today (16 October) that IDA Ireland could get the planning permission ball rolling for potential new data centre sites in a bid to avoid the delays demonstrated by the Athenry fiasco.

Once IDA Ireland has reviewed the report from JEI, advance planning permission will be the goal, making it a simpler endeavour for foreign investors looking to Ireland as the next data centre hub.

An IDA Ireland spokesperson told The Irish Times: “Part of making a particular site attractive for foreign investors is having a ‘speed to market’ advantage, and having a planning permission in place for a site in advance can make it much more attractive.”

Data centres and energy demands

A report from EirGrid notes that existing data centres already consume enough electricity to power more than 210,000 homes (250MW) while a further 550MW is due to be connected over the coming years.

“If all of these enquiries were to connect, the data centre load could account for 20pc of all-island peak demand,” said EirGrid in its All-Ireland Generation Capacity Statement 2017-2026.

It continued: “Demand in Ireland has been growing, and is expected to continue to grow, mainly driven by new large users such as data centres. A significant proportion of this extra data centre load will materialise in the Dublin region.”

EirGrid added that the demand created by these new projects means that “new large-scale generation, transmission solutions, demand side response and/or storage will be required in the Dublin area to accommodate further demand increases and ensure continued security of supply”.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects