The US digital content specialist has invested at least €30m, writes Fearghal O’Connor
American data centre operator EdgeConnex plans to build two more of the high-tech facilities at its existing site in Lucan, Dublin.
The latest data centre proposal for the city comes at a time when there is a growing debate between those who believe the facilities are a welcome addition to Ireland’s burgeoning tech sector and those who fear the environmental impact of rapid expansion of the sector because of the huge amount of electricity it uses.
Virginia-based EdgeConnex concentrates on hosting and delivering digital content as close to its end users as possible and has built 25 data centres around the world since 2013, mainly in the US, and it counts Virgin Media and Comcast , as well as Irish industry body Host in Ireland, among its clients and partners.
Its Irish subsidiary, EdgeConnex Ireland, has applied for planning permission to build the two new data halls, totalling almost 6,000sqm, on a 6.5 hectare site at Grange Castle business park.
The latest plan for the business park will double the size of its Irish footprint as part of a phased investment strategy in this country.
EdgeConnex built a 4,500sqm data centre in 2016 and later extended that facility further before adding a new 1,500sqm data hall last year.
The first phase of the company’s Irish expansion was reported at the time to have cost in the region of €30m and it is likely the new plans will require similar levels of investment, although the company did not respond to a request for comment.
The Lucan business park is also home to a massive Microsoft data centre facility. The web services division of internet giant Amazon also operates a number of data centres in a ring around the city and it, too, is planning a further development at the former Jacobs biscuit factory in Tallaght.
The massive energy consumption required by the proliferation of data centres has become a major concern. This newspaper reported last September that ESB had warned in a risk report that it was at that point facing demands to more than double its entire electricity supply for Dublin to feed proposed new data centres.
The company told the Sunday Independent at the time that the current load in Dublin was then around 1,200MVA but that there was at that stage about 1,400MVA in data centre applications and enquiries in the system. The company insisted the “unprecedented load growth is a challenge that ESB Networks is rising to.” But the original EdgeConnex proposal faced objections due to this issue with a locally based engineer lodging an extensive submission that argued that waste heat generated by the new data centre should be used to develop a district heating system for the nearby Clonburris housing development zone.
But an IDA-commissioned report by Grant Thornton, published in June, found that at least €1bn is pumped into the Irish economy every year by the development and operation of data centres by some of the world’s biggest tech giants.
The report was seen as part of a major pushback against negative publicity after Apple pulled its massive data centre from Athenry and identified the significant economic and employment benefit the sector has made in Ireland.
Critics have argued that the huge power hungry facilities create relatively few jobs but the IDA report found that 5,700 construction and operational jobs are supported by the sector per annum, 3,700 of them directly.
The original EdgeConnex development included a temporary gas-powered generation plant but the overall plans for the site include a new two-storey ESB substation to replace it.
The substation element of the proposal has been redesigned under the latest planning application for the site.