More than 50 submissions have been made on the proposed new data centre for Ennis, which has garnered stiff resistance from environmentalists in recent weeks.
Futureproof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare, and Clare Environmental Network have joined forces in opposing the application, while submissions on the proposal have also come from the likes of Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe, Friends of the Irish Environment, and Environmental Trust Ireland.
At least 250 signatures were collected by campaign volunteers against the application in a few hours in Ennis town centre last week. Campaigners say that has galvanised them into fighting, what they claim, would be an “environmental disaster” for Clare with the amount of energy needed to power such a facility.
Dublin-based Art Data Centres Ltd has applied to Clare County Council for six two-storey data centre buildings up to 19m in height, as well as a two-storey vertical farm.
According to planning files, the developers identified the site at Tooreen following a request for expressions of interest by Clare County Council for the development of a data centre in the county.
Overall development of the site will take longer than five years, and subject to planning approval, construction will begin in June 2023.
Clare County Council declined to comment on the proposal as it is a live planning application.
Melina Sharp of Futureproof Clare claimed the data centre proposal would require a huge amount of fossil fuel to power the “staggering” load of electricity needed at peak times.
“While so-called natural gas is touted as a clean transition fuel, it has a bigger climate impact than burning coal, when upstream emissions are taken into account. The production, transportation and processing of gas involves the unavoidable leaking of methane, a gas that is 87 times more powerful at trapping heat than Co2, in the first 20 years after emission,” she said.
Theresa O’Donohoe of Clare Environmental Network said the public had only five weeks during summer holidays to submit their comments to Clare County Council.
“In the space of 10 days, Futureproof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare and Clare Environmental Network raised awareness among the public of the huge climate and environmental impacts of the proposed power station and data centres. Without the campaign, the public would not have been able to make an informed decision on a matter closely affecting them,” she said.
Emanuela Ferrari of Futureproof Clare said data centres put a huge strain on the national grid, warning of power blackouts – a situation that independent energy experts have conceded is very possible.
“There is also the staggering volume of water needed for cooling the data centres during the hot weather spells that will become more frequent with climate change,” Ms Ferrari said.
According to pro-data centre industry group Host In Ireland, emissions from the sector were 1.85% of Ireland’s total in 2020.
In its May report, it said investment in data centre facilities in Ireland totalled €7bn between 2010 and 2020, and the coming five years will see a further €7bn of investment, with €1.33bn to be spent in 2021.
There are now 70 operational data centres in Ireland.