Green light for Amazon €1bn Dublin data centre plan

An opponent of Apple’s stalled plans for a data centre in Co Galway has failed to prevent online giant Amazon securing planning permission for the first phase of its plans for a €1bn data centre in north-west Dublin.

This follows An Bord Pleanála dismissing an appeal lodged by engineer Allan Daly, who is based in Co Galway, giving Amazon’s Irish firm, Amazon Data Services Ireland Limited (Adsil) the green light for the data centre.

Amazon, which has plans to employ as many as 2,500 in the Republic, already has a number of data centres in Dublin.

But its latest plan for the Dublin district of Mulhuddart, which it has dubbed Project, is its most ambitious to date in Ireland.

Adsil, which seeks to build a single data centre of 223,000 sq ft, has told Fingal County Council, however, it might eventually build seven more data centres on the 26-hectare IDA-owned site.

Recommending that planning be granted, John Desmond, senior planning inspector at the planning appeals board, said in a 120-page report that the data centre was a major piece of digital infrastructure and “must surely be viewed positively”.

In support of the plan, the IDA told the appeals board it views data centres as crucial in keeping the edge on Ireland’s competitiveness and to allow it to continue to tap investments from overseas.

The planning board had held a two-day oral hearing in September.

Mr Daly had stated that Adsil had failed to provide information about the power demands the new data centre would make on the electricity grid. 

The intervention by Mr Daly and a Dublin-based architect David Hughes in lodging the appeals in April last year against Fingal County Council may have delayed the project by nine months.

At the oral hearing, Adsil withdrew plans for a proposed electricity substation and clarified that the grid connection did not form part of the application.

The appeals board has now given the data centre the go-ahead after finding it would be consistent with European and Government policy for the development of digital infrastructure.

It also found it would accord with the policies and objectives of similar developments and would not seriously affect the amenities of the nearby area.

Planning consultant for Adsil, John Spain told the board that when fully up and running, the development would require around 35MW of electricity.

He said that based on 2016 demand levels the Amazon data centre would account for around 0.5% of the single energy market demand across the island.

Mr Spain stated that 400 people would be employed in the 12 to 18 months it would take to build the data centre.

He said that 32 people would be employed at the centre when it became fully operational. Mr Spain said the data centre would also “support and create significantly more direct and indirect roles”.

For its proposed €850m data centre in Athenry in Galway, Apple has faced planning delays. 

The iPhone giant was reluctant to give a commitment to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over the project during his trip to California late last year, and has held back giving a definitive decision since. 

Data centres have their critics, however, because they use a lot of power and employ relatively few people.

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