SSE Renewables and Echelon Data Centres to build €50m Arklow substation

17 Nov 2020

The Beatrice windfarm off the Scottish coast. Image: SSE Renewables/Beatrice Offshore Windfarm

A deal between SSE Renewables and Echelon Data Centres will see the construction of a new substation in Arklow linking a windfarm and a data centre.

A new deal has been signed between SSE Renewables and Echelon Data Centres that will see the pair jointly develop a 220kV substation at the Avoca River Business Park in Arklow at a cost of approximately €50m.

This new infrastructure will facilitate the development of a large-scale offshore windfarm off the Wicklow coast with an export capacity of 520MW, and Echelon’s Dub20 100MW data centre on a 45,000 sq m site. Upon completion, the proposed offshore windfarm and data centre will both directly connect to the Irish national grid via the new shared substation.

The development is expected to create 250 jobs for the Arklow region, including 80 during the substation’s construction. Once the technology and renewable energy projects are up and running, the data centre will support 90 full-time roles while a further 80 full-time roles will support the day-to-day operation of the offshore windfarm.

Developers estimate that the offshore windfarm has the potential to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions by around 1pc, or 500,000 tonnes. Echelon expects its Dub20 data centre to occupied and operational by Q3 2022.

New shared grid infrastructure

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD, said the announcement is a “welcome boost” for Arklow.

“It not only provides new job opportunities, it also places Arklow at the heart of the green tech sector. This collaboration between renewable energy and tech will ensure that key decarbonisation targets contained in the Climate Action Plan are met and is a model which could be rolled out in other communities across the country.”

SSE Renewables’ director of developments, Barry Kilcline, added that the agreement was “a major innovation for the integration of renewables and data centres into Ireland’s national grid”.

“Through this landmark agreement with Echelon Data Centres, we will develop new shared grid infrastructure at Arklow that will facilitate the development of the next phase of the 520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park, which we’re on track to deliver to help meet the Government’s 2025 target of 1GW of offshore wind, and to enable the connection of Echelon’s planned data centre for south Wicklow,” he said.

Echelon Data Centres’ CEO, Niall Molloy, added: “It is also a model for the future, where data centre facilities are located close to the source of renewable energy, providing a constant demand for the power and working with renewable energy providers to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure.

“The initiative represents meaningful progress on the road to cleanly and sustainably powered data centres.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic