ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners from across the country ramped up their campaign against plans for a €450 million data centre in Ennis this week by handing in an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
Futureproof Clare’s appeal against the 10-year planning permission recently granted to Art Data Centres Ltd was submitted with the support of Ecojustice Ireland, Extinction Rebellion, and Friends of the Irish Environment.
Air quality issues, water consumption, poor public consultation, public health impacts and climate and biodiversity impacts have been cited in Futureproof Clare’s opposition.
Futureproof Clare together with Ecojustice Ireland are challenging the decision to grant permission on the following grounds: failure to adhere to Irish Statutory requirements, failure to have regard to relevant considerations, and failure to adhere to international and EU environmental law.
Declan Owens, lawyer and chairperson of Ecojustice Ireland claimed that the site of the planned data centre would be “transformed into a further blight on the landscape” if the development goes ahead.
The appeal claims the centre would use up a disproportionate share of carbon budgets.
Campaigners contend that Clare County Council failed to have regard to its County Development Plan and Climate Action Plan which includes aims “To facilitate measures which seek to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases”.
Futureproof Clare and Ecojustice Ireland also argue that the public health risks of allowing this project to go ahead have not been taken seriously.
The appeal states Ireland will be in breach of EU Climate Law by failing to adhere to binding climate objectives and take the necessary measures at national level to achieve Net Zero by 2050 by allowing this development to go ahead.
It also argues that by permitting the application to build the Ennis Data Centre and gas power plant, Ireland would fail to properly administer EU Level Sectoral Controls on Greenhouse Gases from fossil fuel- based power generation in the energy sector.
Mélina Sharp, member of ‘Futureproof Clare’, “We are in a desperate fight for survival, humanity’s life support systems are crashing all around us.
“Yet it is with total disbelief and dismay that we are faced, almost on a daily basis, with news of decisions made by this government which will cause even more harm to people and the natural world both locally and internationally despite having declared a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019.”
Art Data Centre Campus in Ennis became the first to be approved following publication of the Government’s new data centre policy, with Clare County Council granting it planning in August.
It is envisaged the centre 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 proposed 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.
According to the developers it will have access to 200 mega-watts of power from both the network grid and gas generation on site and aligns with the current CRU requirements for dispatchable power and being located in an unconstrained area.
The proposed site, adjacent to Ennis, was zoned in 2019 for ‘Data Centres & Power Generating Infrastructure’.
The developers have outlined 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.
Speaking when planning permission was granted Tom McNamara, CEO of Art Data Centres stated, “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.”