Apple's new data centre could become Ireland's biggest energy consumer

Apple data centreAppleA computer-generated image of Apple’s proposed data centre in Ireland.

Apple’s proposed €850 million (£644 million) data centre in Ireland is set to become the country’s biggest energy consumer, according to a report in The Irish Independent.

Apple wants to use the data centre to store European user data and to help power online services including the iTunes Store, the App Store, iMessage, Maps, and Siri for customers across Europe, according to a press release announcing the development in February 2015.

Speaking at an oral hearing in Galway on Tuesday, Oisin Collins, representing a local residents group, said Apple would be the largest private user of electricity in the country if it expands the data centre to the extent it wants to over the next 15 years.

The hearing, set to last until the end of the week, was reportedly attended by around 100 people. It is taking place because several parties are against the data centre development.

Allan Daly, a certified engineer who wrote to the An Bord Pleanála planning body holding the hearing, calculated that the data centre would increase Ireland’s overall electricity consumption by 8.2% if it was fully built out and Ireland’s electricity supply remained at the same level as in 2014. However, over the next 15 years, EirGrid, the state-owned electric power transmission operator in Ireland, plans to develop the National Grid and increase capacity across the network.

Apple expects the maximum power requirement for the data centre to rise to up to 240 Megawatts, according to the company’s Revised Environmental Impact Statement. If fully built out, the data centre would use 2,102 Gigawatt-hours a year, Daly said, adding that the whole of the Republic of Ireland only used 25,780 Gigawatt-hours in 2014.

Apple insists that the data centre will be powered 100% by renewables.

Rory Mulcahy, the senior counsel for Apple Distribution Ltd, reportedly said Apple intends to sign a contract with a renewable energy supplier. Apple isn’t proposing to establish any of its own electricity generating facilities on the site.

A source close to the situation said Apple plans to participate in local renewable projects that would not have been built without Apple’s involvement. These projects would have the potential to create new clean energy that will increase the amount of renewable energy generation in Ireland.

Apple also plans to connect the data centre to the national grid, Mulcahy said. Collins questioned whether the impact on the national grid had been fully assessed by planning officials.

Mulcahy said Apple is happy to address any concerns locals have with the help of a range of experts. Other concerns about the data centre include flooding fears, environmental and climate change impact, and threats to bats and badger habitats.

Business Insider visited the site that Apple wants to build on in February and found that most people in the surrounding area are in favour of the proposed development, which could create up to 300 jobs in the area.

Apple declined to comment.

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