How Will Ireland Support the Immense Data Center Demand on the Horizon?
by Josh Anderson
DUBLIN, IRELAND — As emerging markets expand, there will inevitably be growing pains. Ireland is no different there. So at CapRE’s Ireland and Emerging European Markets Data Center Summit yesterday, we asked some Irish Data Center insiders a burning question. Does Ireland have the infrastructure it needs to support the immense data center demand on the horizon?
We first heard from David McAuley, Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Bitpower. “You know, it’s an interesting question,” he replied. “The Irish electricity grid is generating about ten gigawatts. And data centers at the moment demand about 300 megawatts. So they’re in there at about 3% of electricity demand at the moment.”
“The challenge I think with energy and data centers is around where you’ve got the power,” McAuley continued. “Typically, especially with renewables, and we’ve got lots of renewables, we’ve got like 3 or 4 gigawatts of wind and a kilowatt of solar queuing up to get on the energy grid. The challenge we’re seeing is the rapid growth of the data industry, in particular in two or three locations. Really, two or three clusters of data operators.”
The challenge is getting the physical power to those locations, infers McAuley. “It’s the physical power – the transformers that are needed. And with the rapid growth, we’ve had a strong demand from the pharmaceutical industries,” he says. “They haven’t seen this. It’s really the speed of growth – can we catch up? And there’s the question is around renewable energy. The question of storage, and the quality of alternatives renewables that’s available. So I think we have the power. We have the future capacity to deliver it. And we also have the data centers looking for 100% renewable power. So the demand and the investment will be there, for those renewables. But there’s a short-term issue of making those connections, and that’s what I think we’re seeing at the moment.”’
Next up was John Curley, General Manager for Ireland at Clarke Energy. “I think that part of the challenge with the growth that we’re seeing in data centers is the ability of the infrastructure to catch up,” Curley said. “You know, we have quite a bit of lead times for projects that has to do with wires and transformers and stuff like that – stuff to transmit stuff from one place to another. But data centers import power straight away. So the gas infrastructure in Ireland – the primary fuel infrastructure is quite good. And the possibility for on site generation is too. As David was saying, the pharmaceutical industry has taken that step toward on-site generation. And on-site generation is an opportunity, for the data center that’s designed to or able to take advantage of that opportunity.”