Republic of Ireland: Protests arise in opposition to recently approved €450m Ennis data center

Aug 15, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Environmental group Futureproof Clare is opposing the approval of a €450 million ($464.3m) data center project in Ennis, in the West of Ireland, over concerns around public health, and a projected use of "inordinate amounts of water and electricity."

The facility, an Art Data Centres project, was originally proposed back in 2019, and according to the company, has moved through "various stages including strategic site assessment, zoning & planning," and will create between 400- 450 permanent jobs fully operational, with up to 1,200 employed in construction and 600 jobs in support services." Art Data Centres chief executive Tom McNamara, has said that the project will assist the government in "national ambitions to deliver ongoing opportunities for the country in the tech industry." Those opposing the facility, however, have called the decision made by Clare County Council "abborhent."

The campus will reportedly have six data halls of 33MW each, an energy centre and a so-called 'vertical farm,' across 145 acres and 1.3 million sqft, and has received significant opposition due to its potential environmental consequences. Spokesperson Melina Sharp said: "With increased instability on the grid and the planned closure of Moneypoint in 2025, the data centre in Ennis will need to run its own backup generators to avoid having to shut down. This means that the dirtier diesel generators will be spinning up and down beside the town more often producing harmful emissions that lead to asthma and other respiratory illnesses."

Echoing similar sentiments, Climate Camp Ireland spokesman William Hederman said that the council's decision to give the facility the green light is "head-scratching" due to data centers being such "huge energy consumers and usurpers of natural resources." He added that government policy at the moment is "disconnected from reality." This is likely a reference to Ireland's new policy published in late July, which outlined that data centers are central to the business and economic needs of Ireland, and that there will be no moratorium on new data centers. 

Futureproof Clare has asserted that it will appeal the decision ​​of An Bord Pleanála, and speaking to Clare FM radio, group member Tim Hannon said: "We have to push back against this development which is going to have adverse impacts on public health, and it's going to consume inordinate amounts of water and electricity." Further to this, Hannon said that there would be "protests, public meetings, and direct action" against the development, and the group would do "whatever might be necessary to prevent the development if it's approved by the planning bodies," adding: "Futureproof Clare won't be giving up this fight anytime soon. We don't have faith in our planning process."