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Artist's impression of the proposed Ennis data centre

Controversial Ennis data centre granted planning permission

Ennis College Further Education

CLARE County Council has granted planning permission to the controversial €450-million Ennis data centre near the Tulla Road.

Art Data Centre Campus in Ennis has become the first to be approved following publication of the Government’s new data centre policy.

The data centre has been four years moving through various stages including strategic site assessment, zoning and planning. Developers claim it will create between 400-450 permanent jobs when the data centre campus is fully operational. Up to 1,200 will be employed in construction and 600 jobs in support services.

The new Government Policy Statement on the role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Strategy was published on Wednesday July 27 and the Ennis Campus is considered to align well with the policies set out therein.

Mr Tom McNamara, CEO of Art Data Centres, the developer of the project, welcomed the announcement. “This is great news for this data centre campus and for Clare as the project will be a key pillar of the Ennis 2040 Economic Plan for the area which was launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar in 2021.”

The granting of permission comes amid strong local opposition from groups that claim, among other things, that its excessive use of power and water run counter to environmental and climate change goals.

A spokesperson for an alliance of environmental activists said, “The plans to build one of the largest data centres in the country here in Ennis brings with it an additional threat to the health of people here as the plans include a gas burning plant that will only make the air quality here worse than it already is, leading to asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Ruairí Ó Fathaigh, industry expert and Futureproof Clare member said, “The growth of data centres in Ireland is bringing our energy grid to crisis point while also sucking our aquifers dry to cool them down.

“The plans to build one of the largest data centres in the country here in Ennis brings with it an additional threat to the health of people here as the plans include a gas burning plant that will only make the air quality here worse than it already is, leading to asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Fathaigh added, “At no point is the question asked why are we allowing our natural resources and our health be put on the line for a few measly jobs to support advertising and surveillance industries when the parts of the internet people actually enjoy like communicating and sharing with their friends and family can be done using a fraction of the current data centres here, let alone require the doubling of them.”

The campus will comprise six data halls of 33mw each, Energy Centre & Vertical Farm designed on a flexible and modular basis, covering 145 acres and 1.3 million sq ft. Construction of the Art Data Centre Campus will be phased over a seven-year year period commencing in 2022.

It has been designed by data centre specialists Colin Hyde of ARC:MC, and Robert Thorogood of HDRInc. It has access to 200 mega-watts of power from both the network grid and gas generation on site & aligns with the current CRU requirements for dispatchable Power & being located in an unconstrained area. The proposed site, adjacent to Ennis, was zoned in 2019 for ‘Data Centres & Power Generating Infrastructure’.

The 200 MW Ennis Project underpins the Government Policy Statement as it has the key infrastructure on the 145 acres including access to Grid, Main Gas Interconnector running through site which facilitates self-generation availability on site, and access to both wind and solar farms in Clare through the Grid or Private Wire.

It also has the key availability of existing high-speed fibre located both on & adjacent to the site . The energy centre turbines have been designed to run on green hydrogen which the Minister Eamon Ryan has indicted he is hopeful will be available by 2030 when the Project is due for completion

“This Ennis Project fulfils the Government’s key requirements immediately while state bodies, regulators and the electricity sector work to upgrade infrastructure, connect more renewable energy and ensure security of supply,” Mr McNamara said. “The infrastructure that is available in the Ennis site will assist Government in national ambitions to deliver ongoing opportunities for the country in the tech industry.”

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