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Artist's impression of the proposed Ennis data centre

Objectors to Ennis Data Centre cite environmental concerns

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CAMPAIGNERS against plans for a €1.2 billion Ennis data centre have gathered hundreds of signatures from people supporting an objection to the development. Meanwhile, close to 50 submissions have been made to Clare County Council in relation to the planning application lodged by Art Data Centres Ltd.
An objection to the plan made by Future Proof Clare includes the signatures of 250 people, the majority of which the organisation say were gathered within seven hours in Ennis’ town centre.
Concerns have been raised about the planned development by politicians, individuals and groups with Future Proof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare and the Clare Environment Network joining forces in their opposition to the plans. Friends of the Irish Environment, Environmental Trust Ireland and Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe are also among those who lodged submissions.
In their objection to the planning authority, Future Proof Clare have argued that the “extremely high electricity consumption will increase Ireland’s carbon emissions at a time when we urgently need to reduce them”. According to the planning application the facility will have access to 200 mega-watts of power from both the network grid and on-site gas generators. “This is a huge amount of energy, the equivalent to the electricity consumption of approximately 210,000 homes, which is the number of homes in Clare, Limerick and Kerry combined,” the Future Proof objection states.
The group have urged that the council stipulate any data centre be powered either by on-site direct renewable power source generation; off-site renewable power source with dedicated grid connection; a renewable addition to the grid.
The level of waste heat generated has also been highlighted, with the group calling on the council to make it a condition to any planning permission that waste heat be used in direct heating systems. Water demand has also been raised, with the objection stating “cooling the data centre will divert a valuable resource away from the local community”. The group have also claimed there was “insufficient public consultation”.
Last Monday the group hosted a webinar which was attended by almost 100 people expressing concerns in relation to the proposal. Panellists included Brid Smith TD and DCU Professor of Electronic Engineering, Barry McMullin.
Theresa O’Donohoe of Clare Environmental Network has criticised what she described as a “hazy consultation process” saying, “This project will have a major impact on the local environment and global climate.”
While Emanuela Ferrari of Futureproof Clare has argued that data centres are “putting a huge strain on the national grid”. She added that campaign actions will be advertised on Futureproof Clare’s Facebook page and invited concerned people to make contact.
When contacted by The Clare Champion about the issues raised, a spokesperson for the developers stated they would not be in a position to comment in detail on the project as it is going through the planning process which is the appropriate forum for submissions.
In relation to public consultation on the project, the spokesperson said, “The project has been in the public arena since it was zoned, a process which commenced in 2018 and ended in April 2019.”
The spokesperson insisted that an “indepth” public consultation was carried out through a virtual public consultation portal hosted by a specialist company called Innovision. The portal was advertised publicly over a number of weeks in April in Clare newspapers and is still live on  https://www.innovision.ie/artennis
They pointed to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) which has been lodged with the application and is available to view on Clare County Council’s website as well as an Energy and Sustainability Statement which outlines how the centre will comply with sustainable development, energy efficiency and environmental aims.
According to the EIAR, “The design incorporates measures to reduce energy usage, promote a low carbon model and support sustainability.” It also states, “The applicant is committed to running its business in the most environmentally friendly way possible.”
Art Data Centres Limited 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 proposed site, adjacent to Ennis, was zoned in 2019 for ‘Data Centres & Power Generating Infrastructure’. If given the green light the development is expected to create 250 data centre jobs, 1,200 construction jobs and 600 induced jobs in support services.

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