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Amazon secures permission for three new Dublin data centres

Written by Thu 21 Sep 2023

Fingal County Council has approved plans by Amazon to construct three new data centres at their Dublin campus.

Collectively, the facilities will provide 73MW of additional capacity on AWS’ existing 65 acre land-holding at Cruiserath Road, Dublin.

The data centres, named E, F, and G, will each have two levels. Data Centre E covers 1,425sqm, while Data Centres F and G each cover 20,582sqm respectively.

The three buildings will house data halls, associated electrical and mechanical plant rooms, loading bays, maintenance and storage areas, and an office administration area. There will also be plant facilities located at the roof level.

Buildings F and G will also feature rooftop solar panels. Heat recovery systems will warm the office buildings and AWS will seek ‘renewable diesel’ for backup fuel.

The original planning application was submitted in December 2o22. Currently, the AWS campus in Dublin has one data centre operational with two others under construction.

Amazon’s Sustainability Commitment

As part of conditions of the build, Amazon must install infrastructure for a district heating system that recycles heat from the data centres.

The planning authority requires AWS to have a Corporate Purchase Power Agreement (CPPA) before the data centres become operational. This agreement must ensure that AWS’ new renewable energy generation balances the energy used by the data centres.

The Council mandated renewable energy projects must be within Ireland and generate electricity equal to or exceeding the data centres’ needs at all times.

Fingal County Council concluded the proposals by AWS ‘demonstrate a clear pathway to decarbonise and provide a net zero data services in terms of the targets set for the proposed development’.

John Spain, the planning consultant representing AWS, informed the Council of a pre-existing agreement with EirGrid to provide the site with power.

A revision to the connection agreement signed in 2019 provides 8 incremental ramps in power supply to the site, commencing in 2022 and completing in 2029 – with an incremental ramp occuring on 1 January of each year,” said the John Spain Associates in the Applicant/Consultant Planning Report.

AWS stated its commitment to using renewable energy to power all its data centres by 2030. The company said it expects to reach this target earlier than expected.

Environmental Concerns

The project was found, both individually and when combined with other developments, not to harm the environment. However, the plans faced opposition from local residents and environmental groups.

One resident cited the levels of CO2 emissions that the development would create per year as a primary concern.

“602,532 tonnes of CO2 emissions from the data campus per year would equate to approximately 1% of Ireland’s total greenhouse emissions, which is excessive for just one development of three buildings,” said Eimear Manning, a resident of Clonshaugh, Dublin.

Manning emphasised her concerns regariding Amazon’s carbon dioxide offsetting plans.

“The wind farm sites that Amazon proposes to use as an offset only produce 229MW of renewable energy per year. This means that all three windfarms combined will still only account for half of the amount of Co2 produced by this data campus, and even less in reality,” added Manning.

Fingal One Future, a grassroots campaign aiming to halt fossil fuel exploration and new fossil fuel infrastructure development in Ireland, echoed this sentiment.

“We object to this development on the basis that … the proposed development would emit an additional 202,139 tonnes of CO2 per annum,” said Sarah Zimmerman on behalf of Fingal One Future.

Friends of the Earth, an environmental campaigning community, also voiced objections.

“Friends of the Earth remains concerned that the proposed development represents a serious risk of carbon lock-in and information provided is actively misleading in relation to compliance with national climate targets and the Government’s Policy Statement on Data Centres,” they stated in an observation document.

What’s Next for the Amazon data Centres?

The 2022 development proposal stated the development of Data Centre E is due to commence immediately. This is due to power being readily available under the existing ramp.

Amazon will construct Building F and G based on the availability of power in 2025 and 2026. This position aligns with the firm’s forecasted business demand.

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Written by Thu 21 Sep 2023

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