Amazon faces opposition to data centres in Dublin 15Mike Finnerty 28 Sep 2023
Amazon have been granted planning permission for three new data centres at Cruiserath Road, Dublin 15.
The three data centres will amount to 73 megawatts of power, which has led to fierce opposition from environmental groups and elected representatives.
Planning permission was granted by Fingal County Council, with Universal Developers LLC leading the project on 65 acres of land.
The Council approved the development after they found that the proposals by Amazon “demonstrate a clear pathway to decarbonise and provide a net zero data service.”‘
Oisín Coughlan, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Ireland, told RTÉ that the project will lead to increased emissions in Ireland.
He noted that plans to bring the Tarbert power station in Co Clare back online this winter would generate 150 megawatts, and said “half of Tarbert will be dedicated to keeping these data centres going rather than keeping our lights going.”
“Of course we’re going to have data centres, we just don’t need to have every data centre that’s going in Europe. The other country that has anything like ours is Singapore – 14 per cent. We’re heading to 30 per cent.
He claimed that this figure was “more than all the urban homes in Ireland, twice as many as all the rural homes in Ireland. That’s the power the data centres are using now and we’re heading to double that in the next ten years.”
He said the permission represented a “triple threat” in the context of Irish energy system.
“It’s a threat to our energy security, the security of our power system, a threat to our pollution limits. And to be honest, it’s a threat to the credibility of this Government on climate.”
Patrick Bresnihan, lecturer in geography at Maynooth University, questioned Amazon’s commitment to decarbonisation on the project.
The tech giant claimed that the development “demonstrates a clear pathway to decarbonise and provide a net zero data service,” but Bresnihan said “even if this was possible it will make it far harder for the rest of us to decarbonise.”
Earlier this year, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith proposed a ban on new data centres being built in Ireland, claiming that Big Tech had launched a “serious disinformation campaign to greenwash what they did and how they do it.”
Research published in June showed that data centres use nearly a fifth of all energy consumed in Ireland.
Labour Senator and newly-appointed spokesperson on climate Senator Rebecca Moynihan has reiterated her party’s call for a moratorium on all new data centres in Ireland.
Senator Moynihan said “Government can no longer sit on their hands,” over the issue.
“They have continually buried their heads in the sand when it comes to questions over Ireland’s long-term energy planning – it is deeply concerning.”
“It’s time for action, not lip service,” she said.
Moynihan renewed her party’s call for establishing an expert working group to assess the environmental impact of data centres, to propose solutions for climate-proofing data centres and to commit to climate-proofing measures of new developments.
“The CSO shows a 400% increase in the energy consumption of data centres. We need to understand the full impact this is having across our electricity infrastructure.
“More than half (62%) of the country’s expected increase in electricity demand between 2021-2025 is set to come from extra-large energy users such as data centres,” she said, calling the practice “unsustainable.”
“There should be a halt on new centres until we have a full understanding of the impact they are having on our environment and our infrastructure.
“We’re calling for a moratorium on new data centres until we have a full understanding of their impact. We need to ensure that the development of data centres in Ireland is sustainable and that it does not come at the expense of our environment.”
Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney said she is opposed to data centres being built based on environmental concerns and would demand Amazon display firm commitments in transferring surplus energy from the site into the Irish electrical grid.
“If Amazon are using our national grid to power their systems, the very least they can do is put it back into the system,” she said.
Amazon announced a scheme in 2020 to transfer surplus heat and energy from their existing data centre sites to sites in South Dublin, with South Dublin County Council hiring Finnish company Fortum to help facilitate the works.
A statement from May 2020 claimed that “the system will initially heat 47,000 m2 of public sector buildings – an area three times the size of the city’s Croke Park stadium pitch – as well as 3,000m2 of commercial space and 135 affordable rental apartments.”
“This is projected to save 1,500 tonnes of carbon per annum during the first phase of the Tallaght District Heating Scheme, the equivalent of a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions,” Amazon said at the time, and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan opened the centre in Tallaght in April of this year.
The system will be brought online in 2025, and Cooney says a similar plan must be brought in with the new site in Dublin 15.