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Artist's impression of the proposed Ennis data centre

Developers claim data centre could heat more than 1,000 homes

OVER 1,100 homes could benefit from high grade heat generated as part of the planned €1.2 billion data centre campus in Ennis.

It has been proposed to allow for homes or businesses to connect and make use of this heat within a 5km radius of the data centre site, a response to further information on the plans confirms.

A decision on the controversial plan is due to be made in the coming weeks. Art Data Centres Ltd submitted a response to a further information request on the plans to Clare County Council.

The developers’ response also contends an existing flood risk “will not be impacted” by the installation of a proposed new watermain as part of the plans.

In its further information request the planning authority noted that excess heat from the proposal “may provide an opportunity for the provision of a district heating system” for the local area. A statement on whether full and comprehensive consideration has been given to the provision of such a system was requested.

The response lodged by the applicants outlines, “During the later phases of development of the site, it is proposed to build an energy centre with gas engines as the primary generation of electricity on site.

“There will be good high grade heat available from the exhausts which can be harnessed and transported off site. Calculations have been derived to show how much capacity could be made available off site with suggest supply and return temperatures of 105 / 75 degrees C which are common for district heating schemes.

“It is suggested and capacities are calculated, that this heat could be used to support over 1,100 homes or over 250,000 m2 of commercial office space or light industrial buildings within a 5km radius of the Art Data Centre site. Alternatively, if available, the heat could be connected into a District Heat Network to support local needs.”

“To this end, it is proposed to provide flow and return pipework from the Energy Centre to the edge of the site on the Tulla Road, to allow others to connect and make use of this heat.”

In relation to the potential reuse of data centre exhaust air, the response states, “Although it is low grade heat at circa 30 to 40 degrees C, varying through the year, it would be possible to collect the heat and use it for another use.

“As the heat is low grade, it cannot be transported off site and realistically it would have to be used nearby in another building due to the losses involved. An opportunity has been identified where this waste heat could be used for indoor crop farming, where the internal temperature can be maintained at a good level all year-around. Calculations have been derived to show how this waste heat could be used and delivered to a nearby building.”

In seeking further information the planning authority had also raised concerns that the proposed works could lead to an increase in flooding at the Aughavaddy Bridge during storms.

The application proposes the laying of a new water main from the site along the R352 to connect with the existing water main at the junction of the Tulla Road and Millbank Road.

The developers were asked for a survey on the effects of the installation and the ability of the bridge to convey the flow of the Gaurus river during storm events.

According to a report by CSEA lodged on behalf of the applicants Irish Water confirmed there is capacity in the Ennis Water Treatment Plant to facilitate this development.

A Ground Penetration Radar survey deemed there is sufficient space and cover to lay down a watermain if necessary. Irish Water have advised on a pumping rate and period and a rising main diameter that are different to those initially proposed and on that basis drawings have been amended.

In addition, “CSEA confirms that the existing bridge cross section will not be altered. Therefore the existing flood risk will not be impacted by the installation of a watermain.”
According to Irish Water the connection route / point for the watermain supply will be determined following further assessment and the specific supply route will be agreed at the connection application stage.

Further information was also sought under the heading ‘potential project splitting’ with the planning authority seeking detail of any additional groundworks needed to connect the data centre facility with various internet provider networks.

The response outlines that fibre will be provided from a number of sources for security of supply and no above ground works are required as internet providers have infrastructure already in place.

Other documentation sought from the developers included an outline of potential alternative locations including the use of existing brownfield sites.

According to the response, the applicant undertook an assessment of four locations: Ballymaley Business Park; Quin Road Business Park; Roche Ireland; and Toureen.

“On the basis of material asset considerations ie availability of the necessary land bank (within the proposed timeline for the project) and proximity to necessary power (electrical and high pressure gas) for the proposed development of a data centre and energy centre the site at Toureen was chosen as the preferred site.

“Assessment of the environmental constraints identified at Toureen show that these can be easily managed by excluding development from ecological and archaeological buffer zones and lands identified as prone to localised flooding with standard good practice mitigation during construction and operation.”

The developers response also covers areas such as drainage, water supply and flood risk; biodiversity; residential and commercial amenity; movement and access; consideration of alternatives; major accidents and other items.

Art Data Centres Limited have applied for 10 year planning permission for the development of the site in the townlands of Tooreen, Cahernalough, Knockanean, Ballymacahill, Muckinish, and Rosslevan, Tulla Road, Ennis. The data centre campus is expected to create 250 data centre jobs, 1,200 construction jobs and 600 induced jobs in support services if granted planning permission.

Submissions have been received by Clare County Council in relation to the proposal. Future Proof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare, the Clare Environment Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Environmental Trust Ireland and Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe are among those voicing concerns about the data centre plans.

If given the go-ahead the new Ennis data centre campus, identified by Clare County Council as a key pillar of the Ennis 2040 Economic Plan for the area, will comprise a vertical farm and six data halls designed on a flexible and modular basis, covering 145 acres/1.3 million sq ft. 

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