€40m public sector data centre set for Kildare

€40m public sector data centre set for Kildare
File image of data centre.

A new €40m data centre dedicated to the public sector is set for construction in Co Kildare.

A tender for construction of the new centre, which is projected to be 5,474 square metres in size, has been released by the Office of Public Works, which plans to build the new facility at Backweston Campus in Celbridge.

The multi-million euro project is slated to last three-and-a-half years, with a maximum of five bidders permitted.

A data centre is a building or group of buildings used to house computer systems and other technological components, such as telecommunications and mass storage systems.

In 2018 there were 46 such systems housed in Ireland, with the largest network to be found southwest of Dublin, where tech giants Amazon and Microsoft have previously set up their own facilities.

The new data centre is slated for completion in two phases which would see the construction of two data halls, the second of which would begin after the initial phase has gone live.

Given phase two would therefore be carried out in a live building, “a significant risk to health and safety” would have to be mitigated, according to the tender.

The Backweston campus was first developed at the start of the last decade and is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by the OPW.

The location already accommodates laboratory facilities for the Department of Agriculture and the Marine, together with the State Laboratory.

Construction of the new data centre would be expected to run in tandem with that of the new proposed Forensic Science Laboratory, which is also slated for completion on the Backweston campus.

The OPW was not available for comment regarding the tender, which was first mooted in August of 2018, with a then guide price of €30m.

€40m public sector data centre set for Kildare

The reason for the now inflated budget for the project is unknown.

At that time the OPW had flagged Ireland’s planning system as being one of the main risks regarding the completion of the project.

That system came in for heavy criticism after a planned €850m data centre by Apple in Athenry, Co Galway, was eventually scrapped after receiving a number of objections from residents.

Each objection received can be expected to delay a project for between four and six months.

Last April, permission was finally granted for construction of the aborted project by the Supreme Court.

The decision, which was taken by An Bord Pleanála and the State, was unusual given that the project will not be actioned, but is seen as an important precedent for similar future projects.

The prospective Backweston data centre would be subject to the same appeals process which downed the Apple project.

Plans have been put in place by the Government to fast track planning decisions for such projects by giving them Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) status.

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