Irish climate key for technology companies' data centres

The weather is attracting major investment into Ireland.

Large technology companies have built data centres here — and our cooler climate is one of the reasons behind it.

That is according to a spokesman for the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, who told the Irish Examiner that the “temperate” climate makes Ireland an attractive place for companies to build data centres.

“One of the factors attracting data centre-related investment to Ireland is our temperate ‘free air-cooling’ climate, which dramatically reduces the costs of hosting data, potentially saving companies a significant amount in running costs,” said the spokesman.

Well-known businesses such as Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM already have large data centres here, along with many other companies that are not household names. These centres, which can be larger than football fields, are used by companies to store data and process it.

Ireland’s climate means that these companies can reduce the cost of cooling these centres.

Earlier this month, Clare County Council published a tender looking for sites for potential centres. The council said it is seeking expressions of interest from “individuals, companies, and partners” who either own or can identify sites that could support the development of data centres in the county.

The council said it is looking for landbanks of up to 50 acres in size.

“With a newly adopted statutory land use and economic Clare county development plan up to 2023, Clare County Council is seeking, through its economic promotion and infrastructural development remit, companies and partners to identify sites which could credibly support the needs of such projects of scale and deliver one or a number data centres,” said Pat Dowling, the council’s chief executive.

Mr Dowling said Clare’s wealth of natural resources, geographic and infrastructural advantages, and a significant number of developable landbanks “uniquely positions the county as a prime location” for the development of data centres.

This tender follows news last month that the Government and IDA Ireland are working together to identify sites around the country that would work for data centres. The plan was brought to the Cabinet in October.

At a Fine Gael think-in earlier this year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he plans to amend the Strategic Infrastructure Act to “enable the planning process to work more smoothly”.

New legislation is required for the fast-tracking of planning permission for data centres. The new legislation would be aimed at preventing a repeat of the €850m Apple project in Athenry, Co Galway, which has been severely delayed.

Last month, the High Court gave the go-ahead to the centre after nearly three years of a delay. The court upheld An Bord Pleanála’s earlier decision to approve the centre despite local complaints about potential traffic problems and environmental impact from the 116,000 sq m facility.

Ronan Harris, who was head of Google Ireland and is now the managing director of Google Ireland and Britain, had previously described Ireland as the “data capital of Europe”.

In 2013, global data analyst group 451 Advisers predicted that Ireland’s data centre industry would overtake Britain and other European locations.

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