*A proposed artwork for the Ennis Data Centre.
AN BORD PLEANÁLA are set to make a decision on the €450m Ennis Data Centre in less than two months.
Eight objections were filed to An Bord Pleanála following Clare County Council’s decision in August to grant planning permission for the new campus comprising of six data halls covering 145 acres or 1.3 million sq ft on lands adjacent to the Tulla Road on the eastern outskirts of the town.
A decision by An Bord Pleanala is due by January 11th 2023. Parties that objected to the Council’s decision have been furnished with responses from the developer, this information comes close to 200 pages with a three week window now in motion for replies to be circulated back by those objecting to the Data Centre.
When giving the green light, the Council concluded that the scheme would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenities of the area. The local authority instructed the applicant, Art Data Centres Ltd, to pay planning contributions of €2.137m when sanctioning the works.
Developers behind the Data Centre said 400 to 500 permanent jobs will be created when it is fully operational with 1,200 construction jobs and 600 in support services.
Appeals had been lodged by An Taisce, Friends of the Irish Environment, Futureproof Clare, the Clare Green Party and four individuals, Dr Colin Doyle, Martin Knox, Colin Johnston and Christine Sharp.
Concerns on high levels of carbon emissions associated with the development and the subsequent climate impact were raised by the objector whoo argued that this impact was not adequately addressed in the planning application. In their response, the developer included a new climate impact assessment with respect to the Climate Action Plan 2021. Nearly 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases would be emitted each year, the climate impact assessment noted, equalling the emissions from the entire beef herd in Co Clare.
Colin Doyle in his appeal labelled, “a startling conclusion of their climate assessment is that the greenhouse gas emissions from the data centre would consume one tenth of the national emissions ceiling for electricity generation in 2030. And that’s under the most optimistic scenario”.
Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) cited the current energy security concerns, “this is a very ill-timed data centre and will totally undermine our efforts to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2030. It doesn’t make sense that one data centre will use 10% of our emissions ceiling for 2030”.
Responding to concerns on the lack of renewable energy in the proposed data centre, the the developer has said they would be willing to accept a planning condition to enter into a corporate power purchase agreement to offset the entire energy usage of 200MW. They included a letter from Barefield based renewable energy provider MCRE windfarm showing potential availability of 150MW.
Implementing a corporate power purchase agreement won’t solve the problem, Martin Knox maintained. “We need that renewable energy for our current electricity demands. The county development plan is for 550MW of wind by 2030. If the data centre need 200MW renewables, it should be additional to that”.
Bridget Ginnity of the Green Party flagged that a lot has changed in the tech world since the proposal was first put on paper. “Five years ago, data centres seemed like clean industries with good, high tech jobs. Now we know it is a power plant a quarter the size of Moneypoint and that employers like Twitter and Facebook fire as quickly as they hire”.
Despite the Green Party objecting to the plans, its leader and the current Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan (GP) told The Clare Echo that data centres “are neither a good thing nor a bad thing, they are not the cause of all our woes but we do have to make sure they fit in within our climate plans, new centres will come but in a way that supports our electricity and backs up our conventional power supply so we meet our climate targets and also get the economic gain from data centres, they have a part and a real important role in our country but they like every other industry have to fit in with the climate plans we’re developing and it’s on that basis that they will be developed”.