Amazon secures permission for Dublin data centres

Gordon Deegan

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has secured planning permission for contentious plans to construct three new data centres in north Dublin.

This follows Fingal County Council giving the go-ahead to AWS firm, Universal Developers LLC, for the three new data centre buildings with a combined power load of 73MW for the AWS data centre campus on a 65-acre land-holding at Cruiserath Road, Dublin 15.

In addition to the three granted planning permission, one AWS data centre is already operational at the campus while construction work continues on two others.

The council has granted planning permission despite opposition from Friends of the Earth, Not Here Not Anywhere, Gluaiseacht and others.

On behalf of Gluaiseacht, Eoin O Leidhin called on the council to reject the project claiming that “this project will lead to increased emissions in Ireland”.

Head of policy at Friends of the Earth (FOTE) Jerry Mac Evilly told the council that it should refuse planning permission as FOTE “remains concerned that the proposed development represents a serious risk of carbon lock-in”.

However, in granting a seven-year planning permission, the council concluded that the construction of the three data centres would be consistent with European and Government policy concerning the development of digital infrastructure.

The council concluded that the project would not in itself, or taken cumulatively with other developments, have a detrimental direct or indirect impact on the environment.

Energy consumption

The planning authority included a condition that prior to the operation of the data centres, AWS must have in place a Corporate Purchase Power Agreement (CPPA) which demonstrates that the energy consumed by the data centres is matched by new AWS renewable energy generation in the State.

The council stated the new renewable energy projects shall be located in Ireland, and the amount of electricity generated by the renewable energy projects must be equal to or greater than the electricity requirements of the data centres in operation at any given time.

In its 69-page planner’s report recommending that planning permission be granted, the council concluded that the proposals by the AWS firm “demonstrate a clear pathway to decarbonise and provide a net-zero data services, in terms of the targets set for the proposed development”.

Planning consultant for the AWS firm, John Spain, told the council that “the proposed development does not entail a new request for power because it has an existing connection agreement” and will be supplied power by an existing transmission system.

Mr Spain said the existing connection agreement provides for eight incremental increases in power supply to the site, commencing in 2022 and completing in 2029.

A spokesperson for AWS said on Tuesday: “The proposed development represents a significant investment that will create additional direct, indirect and induced economic and employment benefits, in addition to those that have already been generated by AWS.

“As such, it is fully consistent with the Government’s preference, as set out in the Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres, for data centres to be associated with strong economic activity and employment.”