How Many Data Centres are there in Ireland?
We are currently in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The only difference to the 1st Industrial Revolution is that the engine of this revolution is data. Digital tools and data are facilitating new forms of communication, innovation, and creativity. In 2020, every individual on the planet generated 1.7 megabytes of data/sec.
However, much seems to be misconstrued in terms of the 'centres' where that 'data' is stored. To the public, data centres are seen as guarded and plain grey 'boxes' that are separate from their community. There's also a presumption that they don't add any value to the region they are based in spite of their economic advantages. The truth is that data centres do not operate separately from the community, but are there on account of it.
Over the last two decades, Ireland has grown as a premier data hosting nation, in addition to being a supplier of ICT skills and services required for the global expansion of data. Ireland has become a major data centre hotspot for the world’s biggest corporations due to favourable factors like existing natural cool weather, skilled IT workforce, closeness to the US within Europe, and a plethora of EU funding initiatives. These factors provide suitable grounds for data processing operations.
According to a report released by Bitpower, there are currently 82 data centres running in Ireland. Most of these data centres are situated in the Dublin area, with all but five of the 82 data centres situated there. The data centre market is dictated by US giant data companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook; all of which are dedicated to net-zero emissions and the use of 100 per cent renewables.
Bitpower also reported that an additional 14 centres are being built, while planning has been sanctioned for an additional 40 in 22 projects. Official figures indicate that electricity usage of data centres in Ireland is at an all-time high and comes at a time when the nation is struggling to meet its environmental targets. In 2022, a fifth of Ireland’s electricity was used by data centres. This is similar to the electricity used by urban households during that period.
Even with the burden data centres are exerting on the infrastructure of the country, there’s no official record of the number of data centres in operation in Ireland. Moreover, the State-owned power supplier, EirGrid, has enacted a de facto moratorium in the Greater Dublin Area to data centres linked to the grid until 2028, which may affect the expansion of the sector in the region. Despite this, the Ireland Data Centre Industry scope is anticipated to increase from USD 2.76 billion in 2023 to USD 4.06 billion by 2028.
Why are so many data centres built in Ireland?
Although Ireland is a relatively small country, it oversees important European operations of leading tech corporations such as Microsoft and Meta. Reasons why Ireland is chosen to host centres include:
Low corporation tax: The tax regime in Ireland is very favourable for businesses. The tax rate is 12.5%.
Renewable energy: Natural renewable energy like solar power and wind are abundant in Ireland. This is a crucial requirement for data centres given how they are constantly under pressure to minimise their carbon emissions.
Skilled workforce: The workforce in Ireland is IT proficient. This is attractive to ICT companies as they will get talent to operate facilities.
What next for data centres in Ireland?
The data centre train isn’t looking to stop anytime soon. The nation is well poised to take advantage of the ever-growing demand for data services. The Irish government has taken an active interest in supporting this sector. It has employed strategies to ensure that Ireland is at the forefront of the data centre domain. This includes granting tax breaks to operators and investing in requisite infrastructure.
Due to these factors, Ireland is anticipated to experience considerable growth in the data centre industry in the years to come. This will in turn bring numerous advantages to the country, including job creation, better connectivity, and economic growth. In terms of economic growth, IBEC’s Cloud Infrastructure Ireland group reported that the data centre sector injected €52 billion ($52 million) into the economy and created jobs for around 150, 000 individuals. Enterprise Ireland attributed €2 billion ($2 billion) of Irish sales exports to data centres.
Digitalisation is not going anywhere, and given our overdependence on data, we will continue needing more and more data centres. And with the data centre sector surging in Ireland, it has raised some issues concerning their environmental impact given how they use a considerable amount of energy.
The Irish government has vowed to minimise carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, and has partnered with the data centre sector to come up with more sustainable options. So the time has come for the data centre sector to be courageous, relentless, and creative to seize opportunities and reduce their carbon footprint in the process.
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