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Power supply issues cause uncertain future for 30+ Irish data centres

Written by Fri 11 Jun 2021

Facing growing demand for services, data centres in Ireland have made agreements to expand capacity.

The total energy consumption of data centres in Ireland, already high, is growing in response to increased demand for data centre services and is putting pressure on an already stressed power grid. According to one source, responding to all of the new requests for increased power would allow data centres to consume 70% of the country’s total available power.

In response, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) of Ireland has provided direction for responding to data centre requests for power to Eirgrid, the company responsible for national grid management. The CRU informed Eirgrid that they must prioritize requests from locations where supply is more available and the power grid is not already under duress.

Essentially, this strategy will shift resources to data centres that are located further away from urban centres where demand from consumers, businesses, and other data centres is high.

This has caused great concern among data centre providers. Many had applications for connection approved by Eirgrid prior to regulatory intervention, which would add 1800 MW to the grid. Requests awaiting authorization would add 2,000 MW more if they are approved.

The new prioritization announcement is an unwelcome surprise for those companies that have already had requests approved. Further, data centre connections in or near urban centres is a priority for many, as physical distance helps to improve processing speed and reduce latency. If connections in rural areas are prioritized, data centres may not be able to provide the capacity that they have promised to meet growing customer demand.

Eirgrid has been working with the CRU on the impact that data centres have on the power grid, particularly in regions where the grid is stressed. Eirgrid spokesman David Martin said that the company will incorporate CRU prioritization while still adding data centres to the grid, saying, “We look forward to processing connection applications for data centres in line with the resulting policy once the outcome of this consultation is determined by CRU,” he said.

Eirgrid’s Group Head of Regulation, Bill Thompson, said in a letter to CRU, “We are facing more acute security of supply situation than we have had in the recent past. The rate at which data centres are seeking to grow their load is unprecedented.”

“A data centre with a load of 60 MW would be comparable to the load usage of a large town/small city such as Kilkenny, “ noting that other international cities (including Amsterdam and Singapore) have limited data centre development to relieve the pressure on the power grid.

Written by Fri 11 Jun 2021


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