Apple’s plan to build a massive data centre powered entirely by renewable energy in the west of Ireland has been attacked by anti-wind campaigners.
The US technology giant said yesterday it would spend €850m to build a data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, and the same again to build another centre in Denmark. The construction phase will create hundreds of local jobs.
Apple said the centre would power online services, including the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage, Maps and Siri for customers across Europe.
The two data centres will be among the largest and most advanced in the world.
The company last night briefed up to 150 landowners and local residents on the project. The informal event at the Raheen Woods Hotel was designed to ease any fears and answer questions that locals may have had about the massive project.
The tech giant told the Irish Independent that it hadn’t yet decided what renewable energy sources it would use, saying it was too early in the project, but the company said it would “work with local partners” to explore the use of “wind or other sources”.
Apple insisted there would be no wind turbines built on the site.
That is different to Denmark, where some power will be generated locally.
In the US, Apple offsets its data centres’ power use by investing in renewable energy capacity in other parts of the country.
Tech companies such as Google have recently been criticised for failing to be more environmentally minded. Apple was named the “least green” tech company by Greenpeace in 2011, thanks to its reliance on coal power for its data centres. Apple now draws all its power from renewable sources.
Henry Fingleton, from anti-wind group Wind Aware Ireland, said Apple’s announcement was premature.
“The process for getting permission and setting up renewable energy is very complex. There’s strategic and environmental assessment required … it’s a long and detailed process.
“Unless Apple intends building an enormous hydro or biomass plant it is very unlikely that their data centre will run ‘entirely’ on clean renewable energy sources. The mention that wind energy is clean and green is factually wrong.
“Wind energy in Ireland can only operate when permanently backed up with fossil fuel plants. I would not like my data stored in a facility that depended on wind energy.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) welcomed Apple’s commitment to renewables. It said it “underlines a desire among some of the world’s largest and most influential companies to shift to cleaner and more sustainable sources of electricity generation, and Ireland is very fortunate to be in a position to offer an abundant source of clean, renewable wind energy.”
IWEA chief executive Kenneth Matthews said the Athenry development was the first of several announcements in the coming months. He added that there could be “several hundred megawatts” of new renewable capacity funded by a boom in Irish data centres.
Apple will almost certainly have to ensure alternative supplies of energy as well as wind power in case of a breakdown.
Data centres in Dublin are connected to two separate substations and also have diesel generators with a 36-hour supply of fuel and two fuel suppliers on four-hour delivery notice.
The two new data centres are expected to begin operating in 2017. “This significant new investment represents Apple’s biggest project in Europe to date,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said yesterday. “We’re thrilled to be expanding our operations, creating hundreds of local jobs and introducing some of our most advanced green building designs yet,” he added.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the decision saying it was “another extremely positive step” for the country’s recovery.
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