Ennis Data Centre first approved under new government policy

Image by Apke from Pixabay

Art Data Centre Campus in Ennis has become the first to be approved following publication of the Government’s new data centre policy, with Clare County Council granting it planning today.

The €450-million Ennis data centre has been four years moving through various stages including strategic site assessment, zoning & planning. Art will create between 400-450 permanent jobs when the data centre campus is fully operational. Up to 1,200 will be employed in construction and 600 jobs in support services.

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The new Government Policy Statement on the role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Strategy was published on Wednesday 27th July 2022 and the Ennis Campus is considered to align well with the policies set out therein.

Mr Tom McNamara, CEO of Art Data Centres, the developer of the project, welcomed the announcement. “This is great news for this data centre campus and for Clare as the project will be a key pillar of the Ennis 2040 Economic Plan for the area which was launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar in 2021”

The campus will comprise six data halls of 33mw each, Energy Centre & Vertical Farm designed on a flexible and modular basis, covering 145 acres and 1.3 million sq ft. Construction of the Art Data Centre Campus will be phased over a seven-year year period commencing in 2022. It has been designed by data centre specialists Colin Hyde of ARC:MC, and Robert Thorogood of HDRInc. It has access to 200 mega-watts of power from both the network grid and gas generation on site & aligns with the current CRU requirements for dispatchable Power & being located in an unconstrained area. The proposed site, adjacent to Ennis, was zoned in 2019 for ‘Data Centres & Power Generating Infrastructure’.

The 200 MW Ennis Project underpins the Government Policy Statement as it has the key infrastructure on the 145 acres including access to Grid, Main Gas Interconnector running through site which facilitates self-generation availability on site, and access to both wind and solar farms in Clare through the Grid or Private Wire. It also has the key availability of existing high-speed fibre located both on & adjacent to the site . The energy centre turbines have been designed to run on green hydrogen which the Minister Eamon Ryan has indicted he is hopeful will be available by 2030 when the Project is due for completion

“This Ennis Project fulfils the Government’s key requirements immediately while state bodies, regulators and the electricity sector work to upgrade infrastructure, connect more renewable energy and ensure security of supply,” Mr McNamara said. “The infrastructure that is available in the Ennis site will assist Government in national ambitions to deliver ongoing opportunities for the country in the tech industry.”

Meanwhile, the Clare Green Party expressed concern at the decision of Clare County Council to grant planning permission to the proposed data centre in Ennis due to the adverse impact on climate and on water and electricity usage.

In their submission to the planning process, the Green Party had welcomed the Ennis Data Centre if it could be developed in a sustainable manner. They accepted that data centres are an integral part of our lives and added “the project should be an opportunity to demonstrate how a data centre can be done in a sustainable manner, in accordance with government climate change commitments and with minimal impact on the local area in terms of water and electricity usage.”.

Senator Roisin Garvey said “We are in an energy and housing crisis so the granting of permission seems ill-timed. The data centre should be approved only if it plans to use all renewable energy and be in line with the recently published Government statement on data centres. Providing social, affordable and low cost rental housing needs to be top priority for the Council. ”

“At a time when reducing our carbon emissions is a huge challenge that will affect everyone in society, the proposed Ennis Data Centre will be a considerable additional burden” added Bridget Ginnity. “It will double the current electricity consumption in the county and exceed the greenhouse gas emissions of the from the entire cattle herd in Clare.”

The Clare Green Party acknowledges the efforts by the County Council to bring economic, social and environmental opportunities to Ennis and Clare and that the Ennis Data Centre is a key project within Ennis 2040. However, unless the proposed development is genuinely sustainable, an alternative key project should be identified that generates local business and at the same time helps to reduce our carbon emissions.

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