Ireland has become a hub for data centres in recent years, with tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Apple all setting up major European data storage facilities. The country is seen as an attractive location for the facilities for a range of reasons, including the cool climate, which reduces running costs for heat-generating computers, its connectivity to the US via transatlantic data cables, and a favourable data-protection regime for tech multinationals. And of course, there is a huge demand for such data centres for the storage of information which is likely to increase exponentially with 5G to replace current 4G technology in the coming years.
These data centres are huge and employ relatively few people. For instance one at Tallaght is the size of 3 football fields and employs 30 people, so there is an argument to be made about inefficient use of space relative to the area required. There is a more pressing factor, as highlighted in the image above, they consume vast amounts of electricity and according to EirGrids mid-range scenario, 15% of all electricity demand in Ireland will come from data centres by 2026.
Now the thrust of the journal article is that we will fail to meet renewable energy targets and potential EU fines, but I think the more pertinent question, is why should 15% of expensive electricity generated with unpleasant side effects like pollution and impacts on health, be reserved for a specialist industry that produces very little jobs Is the price of such high tech jobs, as welcome as they may be, far too high using a standard 'bang for your buck' formula, is this an unacceptable example of corporate welfare or is it the right way for the future of high tech jobs and clustering of spin off employment in the knowledge economy from same, for Ireland?
Data centres are making energy demands shoot up in Ireland