A government-funded planning body in Ireland wants Apple to provide a lot more information about its proposed Irish data centre, according to documents seen by Business Insider.
An Bord Pleanála was due to make a decision on whether Apple could start building an €850 million (£657 million) data centre in February but last week it was reported that the organisation, which decides on appeals from planning decisions made by local authorities in Ireland, won’t pass a decision until May.
A letter written to the Cork office of Arup Consulting Engineers — the firm coordinating the data centre project — by an An Bord Pleanála executive on February 4 2016 reveals there are five areas that Apple must provide more information on before An Bord Pleanála will make a decision on the appeal.
The proposed facility in County Galway, Ireland, would be shrouded by trees and power many of Apple’s most important services across Europe, including the iTunes Store, the App Store, iMessage, Maps, and Siri.
Apple and Arup must provide additional information to An Bord Pleanála by March 7 2016 in accordance with section 132 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. If no information is provided then the organisation could dismiss the case.
Apple is yet to confirm with Business Insider whether it has submitted the additional information.
The concerns are outlined below:
The board specifically wants Apple to provide more detail about why it has chosen to build the data centre in a forest near the small town of Athenry over other locations around Ireland.
The letter reads: “The proposed development is located in an un serviced rural area on lands outside of any settlement and which are not the subject of any specific development objective. It is considered that the applicant has not adequately addressed the issue of site location and the alternatives considered prior to selecting the proposed site. The applicant is therefore requested to submit further information regarding the alternative sites considered and justification of the site size requirement used in the assessment of alternatives, comment on the specific alternative locations identified in the appeal submissions, and should be undertaken at a national scale.”
Apple has stated that it wants to use 100% renewable energy to power the data centre but the board claims “no site or project specific information regarding renewable energy projects is provided and details of how they might be connected to the proposed development is required.”
The planning body also wants to see more evidence on how Apple and Arup plan to connect the data centre to renewable energy resources.
3. Environmental Impact
An Bord Pleanála also wants Apple and Arup to revise the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that it submitted. There are three specific areas within the EIS that need to be updated, according to the board.
Substation not mentioned
The first relates to the fact that the development includes not just a data centre, but also a substation/grid connection element. “The board is not satisfied that the EIS in its current format presents a logical and clear overview of the potential future impacts arising from the overall development, such that the cumulative impact of the overall development can be accurately assessed as required,” the letter reads. “Cumulative impacts with other relevant projects should also be presented.”
The second issue with the EIS is that parts of it only take into account the environmental impact associated with building the first data hall. Apple ultimately plans to build as many as eight halls.
The board says: “The format of the EIS is also considered to be somewhat inconsistent with regard to the extent of the development proposed and the impacts presented. The site location is justified on the basis of a phased development of up to eight data halls and a masterplan for the overall development of the site has been submitted with the application, however sections of the EIS assess impacts on the basis of Phase 1 alone.”
The board also wants the EIS to be updated so that it addresses the impacts that will come about “in the absence of viable direct sustainable energy sources.”
4. Protected species
An Bord Pleanála wants Apple and Arup to provide the results of the ecological surveys it carried out (specifically those relating to bats) as well as details on any further surveys it plans to carry out.
Apple and Arup have also been asked for more information about the geology of the site they want to build on.
“The applicant is requested to submit an overview of the ground characteristics in the vicinity of the proposed percolation area for treatment systems serving the administration building and data halls. The submitted information shall include the depth of bedrock, depth to the water table, soil/sub soil classification and an assessment of the permeability of the soil/subsoil in this area.”
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