Environmentalists warn Clare data centre is a 'climate disaster waiting to happen'

 

Environmental groups in Clare have vowed to vigorously fight plans for a €1.2bn data centre near Ennis which they claim is “a climate disaster waiting to happen”.

Dublin-based Art Data Centres Ltd has applied to Clare County Council for six two-storey data centre buildings up to 19 metres in height, as well as a two-storey vertical farm.

According to planning files, the developers identified the site at Tooreen following a request for expressions of interest by Clare County Council for the development of a data centre in the county.

Overall development of the site will take longer than five years, and subject to planning approval, construction will begin in June 2023.

Futureproof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare, and Clare Environmental Network have vowed jointly to oppose the plans. The Clare environmental groups claimed it “would cause a surge in Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions, put an enormous strain on electricity and water resources, and be incompatible with council policy”.

Emanuela Ferrari of Futureproof Clare said: “The rapid growth of data centres in Ireland is leading to new gas-fired power stations being built to meet the increased energy demand, and their growth is also adding to pressure to approve the Shannon LNG fracked gas import terminal. Another huge data centre is the last thing we should be building.” 

Data centres in Ireland are coming under greater scrutiny due to the vast amount of energy and water needed to power and cool them.

EirGrid and the energy regulator have warned of Ireland’s electricity grid becoming overwhelmed, which could lead to rolling blackouts, Aisling Wheeler of Extinction Rebellion Clare said.

“If Big Tech cannot provide new renewable energy to power their data centres, they should be refused permission,” she said.

Theresa O'Donohoe of the Clare Environmental Network claimed public participation has been “almost non-existent”.

“People in Clare were not given adequate information about this data centre and its major environmental impact, including the enormous energy use.” 

The groups are hosting a webinar about the proposed Ennis Data Centre on Monday evening, with details on the Futureproof Clare Facebook page.

According to pro-data centre industry group Host In Ireland, emissions from the sector were 1.85% of Ireland’s total in 2020.

In its May report, it said investment in data centre facilities in Ireland totalled €7bn between 2010 and 2020, and the coming five years will see a further €7bn of investment, with €1.33bn to be spent in 2021.

There are now 70 operational data centres in Ireland.