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Ireland faces data centre challenge to power demand

October 21, 2017

By Paul Homewood



h/t Tallbloke






Data centres will consume 20 per cent of Ireland’s power generation capacity by 2025, according to the country’s main grid operator, Eirgrid.
Eirgrid added that the huge increase in data centre activity in the country would eat up to 75 per cent of growth in Irish power demand.
The Irish Independent reports that the amount of power needed to store emails, texts and other online data could rise seven-fold as Ireland chases inward investment from tech giants including Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft.


Facebook data center Ireland




“Large industrial connections normally do not dominate a country’s energy demand forecast but this is the case for Ireland at the moment,” the All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2017-2026 says.
The situation has been further complicated by a fall in older conventional power plants, due to close over the same time frame. While more renewables are being added to the system, the newspaper reports that capacity in Dublin is ‘on a knife edge.’



Analysis from EirGrid shows that data centres already connected to the grid consume 250 MW of electricity, sufficient to power more than 210,000 homes.
Another 550 MW is due to be connected over the coming years, enough for almost 470,000 houses, while projects under discussion could consume as much as 1,000MW – enough for 850,000 homes.
“If all of these enquiries were to connect, the data centre load could account for 20 per cent of all-island peak demand,” it says in its ten-year transmission forecast statement. “Clearly the potential connection of demand on this scale is equivalent to decades of national demand growth.”
Massive investment in sub-stations and other infrastructure – particularly around Dublin – will be required, sources said.
“If these connections materialise, new large-scale generation, transmission solutions, demand side response and/or storage will be required in the Dublin area to accommodate further demand increases and ensure continued security of supply,” EirGrid says.


Data centres are big business in Ireland, not simply because of the attractive low tax and business friendly climate there, but because of the cold weather there! In particular they are centred around Dublin, close to the T50 fibre trunking system.

But for a country with about a tenth of the demand in the UK, this sort of electricity consumption is serious stuff.

With inter-connector availability, the Irish grid operator, EirGrid works closely with the Northern Ireland side, run by SONI. They produced a All-Island Capacity Generation Statement earlier this year, which made this forecast:





It also made this projection of available dispatchable capacity, which showed just how tight electricity supply is likely to become by the mid 2020s.




Currently, thermal power supplies about 75% of Ireland’s generation:



In the UK, as the share of renewable increases, the National Grid hopes to meet peak demands by paying large industrial and commercial users to switch off. But I don’t quite see this sort of demand side management going down to well with Google!

Increasingly therefore it appears that Ireland will become more dependent on interconnectors from Britain, the East-West, which runs from Wales, and Moyle from Scotland.

The Capacity Statement has considered what the future for Ireland/N Ireland looks like without these interconnectors, and it does not look too bright!



In the meantime, Britain is planning to rely more on importing power from France, who themselves are phasing out nuclear energy, which is the basis for such imports.


Meanwhile, virtue signalling Microsoft has reached an agreement with GE to purchase all of the energy from its wind farm in County Kerry, Ireland, as it looks to increase the use of renewable energy in its data centres.

One wonders why they don’t go the whole hog, build their own wind farm and switch off from the Irish Grid completely. At least that would leave more electricity for the people who really need it!

  1. mwhite permalink
    October 21, 2017 10:17 am

    South Australia on our doorstep???

  2. October 21, 2017 10:31 am

    The cracks are opening up. If several neighbour countries rely on each other’s interconnectors at times of high demand, it’s not hard to see how that could go – badly.

    • October 21, 2017 11:34 am

      I agree and that is why I think that Scotland, with a completely different generation mix than south of the border should have control of its own Grid, albeit still co-operating with its neighbours.
      We might then get another gas station built at Cockenzie, and additional pumped storage at Loch Ness and other possible sites.
      By and large, interconnectors should be a secondary consideration for any country’s Grid design

      • RogerJC permalink
        October 21, 2017 2:00 pm

        Scotland could be self sustaining for power using only the electricity from its installed gas, coal and nuclear capacity. However when the wind blows it relies on the grid south of the border to take just about all it’s wind generated electricity. If the grids were separated it would make it easier south of the border to balance the grid and show those in Scotland the problems associated with the SNPs energy policy.

  3. October 21, 2017 10:44 am

    It would seem that every country in Europe is expecting interconnectors to solve their shortfall in firm capacity. It could be described as continental madness.

    • Bitter&twisted permalink
      October 21, 2017 11:19 am

      Interconnectors will be fxxx all use if most countries are relying on fairy pharts and moonbeams for their electricity

    • Joe Public permalink
      October 21, 2017 11:27 am

      Interconnectors, like tracer-bullets, work both ways:

      Germany’s excess power spills over the border into Polish and Czech territory and threatens their electrical grids with collapse, companies and governments there say.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 22, 2017 12:10 am

        I figured that Ireland use the interconnectors to keep the lights on. That’s not just importing power when winds are slight, but exporting it so that they can keep sufficient generation that supplies grid inertia when wind production is high, and particularly when demand is low overnight or at weekends. You can see these things at work in this chart, made to show how Ophelia resulted in cutbacks in wind output:

        Meanwhile it seems that the interconnector to France is spending quite a bit of time supplying the continent again as we move towards winter. Only when demand is low overnight and at weekends are we importing power from France.

        Girds are indeed a two way street, allowing other countries’ shortages to hit the UK.

    • October 21, 2017 2:21 pm

      That certainly seems to be the case in England and Wales. They are aiming to have 7,000MWs of interconnector to Scotland, a capacity 50% higher than Scotland’s peak demand; also interconnectors to France, the Netherlands, Norway. Even Iceland is mentioned. Why don’t they just generate their own electricity. Remember all this comes under the direction of Westminster/Ofgem, not the Scottish Government as implied by Roger JC above to whom apparently I cannot reply

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        October 22, 2017 7:50 am

        You can reply to your own post and address it to Roger JC. There is a limit to the number of reply levels hence the apparent block on the comment you want to reply to.

  4. Bitter&twisted permalink
    October 21, 2017 11:16 am

    The wind doesn’t blow, it sucks.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    October 21, 2017 11:24 am

    With a quarter of Eire’s power generated by solid fuel, it’s worth bearing in mind this report from last Thursday’s Irish Times:

    “Extreme air pollution in Ireland caused by ‘burning of solid fuel’
    Such fuels promoted as ‘low-carbon’ but are devastating in terms of air pollution – expert”

    [OK some of that solid fuel is burnt for heating rather than power-gen.]

  6. Dave Ward permalink
    October 21, 2017 11:37 am

    Demand side response and/or storage will be required in the Dublin area”

    When push comes to shove (which it will), are the Irish government going to give the residents of Dublin a choice of either 1) jobs in these data centres, or 2) limited/no power at home when the wind doesn’t blow during darkness?

  7. Sheri permalink
    October 21, 2017 5:21 pm

    So Al Gore’s internet is draining the power in Ireland? Shouldn’t all those centers be shut down to save the planet???

    I agree with the idea that Google and others should disconnect from the grid and go 100% renewable. Actions, not words. No actions, no one believes their words. Make it clear that Google is destroying the planet with their internet. Call them out on this. All computers are evil. Shut it all down if it won’t run on energy from weather. Don’t let Google and all destroy your children’s future. (I borrowed that from activists—it seems to be a big one for them. I’d go with polar bears, but they are dying any more….)

  8. R2Dtoo permalink
    October 21, 2017 5:25 pm

    The only true test of the sincerity of the global warming cabal would be for google, apple etc to not only pay for, but also use only so-called “renewable energy. If google couldn’t be functional during windless nights, and couldn’t afford enough batteries for downtime storage, then their customers on the sun side of the planet would just have to do without. Not having the internet for a day is not more important than heated homes, hospitals and schools.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 21, 2017 9:10 pm

      We would still have the internet – just nothing from Google servers.

  9. John F. Hultquist permalink
    October 21, 2017 10:04 pm

    Data centers usually have backup generators (diesel ?) that need to be tested every so often. In Washington State there has been some push-back from air quality activists. The location in central WA is because of the hydro power.

    Ireland could require combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants as part of all data centers. The CCGT — gas and a steam — together produce up to 50 percent more electricity from the same fuel than a traditional simple-cycle plant. [So says GE Corp.] The waste heat from the gas turbine is routed to the nearby steam turbine, which generates extra power.
    These would seem to be better than standby diesel.
    The CCGT could have installed reserve and be connected to the grid.
    That installed reserve would add some cost, but the companies likely are getting a good deal in Ireland, so this ought to be justified.

  10. Athelstan permalink
    October 21, 2017 10:38 pm

    But……………aren’t all these mega IT companies all Green agenda, thus anti fossil fuels and ruinables fixated?

    how ironic is it not that, they’re going to cause blackouts for the little people of ever so green Erin.

    It’s enough to make the Leprechauns piss themselves with laughter.

  11. October 22, 2017 8:34 am

    20% would be data centres
    And what about if everyone in Ireland gets a electric cars ?
    won’t that be equivalent to 20-30% of the grid output ?
    (you check on Ireland diesel/petrol consumption and knock off a bit that used for non-transport)

  12. Neil van Dokkum permalink
    October 22, 2017 10:00 am

    Reblogged this on The Law is my Oyster.

  13. October 24, 2017 9:50 am

    With demand comes growth. With growth is difficult it spawns innovation. Our generation is continually becoming more sustainable and efficient. Sustainable power is very profitable for ireland. If your concerns are energy you should be pushin for the old inefficient power generators we have to be closed and replaced with sustainable tech not blaming data centres.
    With power generators are the issue not consumers

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