Saturday, November 25, 2017

Microsoft to build Dublin power station as Irish capital struggles to power booming $10bn data centre industry

Sector does not show signs of slowing down and the country is readying to break ground on some core projects to ensure business continuity.

The Irish data centre boom has taken its toll on the country’s power grid as local electricity operator EirGrid prepares to invest “tens of millions of Euros” in expanding capacity in Dublin to accommodate growing demand.

According to the Irish Independent, Microsoft is also “being forced” to build its own power station in the Irish capital to help power its data centre in the Grange Castle Business Park, Clondalkin.

The hyperscaler will install 16 gas-powered generators which will produce up to 18MW of electricity.

However, a Microsoft spokesperson said the station would only be used to power the company’s data centre “if necessary”.

Microsoft, which has invested nearly $20bn in building out its global Azure cloud infrastructure over the years, has today four data centres operating in Dublin and was in May 2016 given permission to double that in an investment estimated at more than $1bn. Each of the new data centres is expected to measure 188,400 sqf.

The company’s total investment in Ireland sits are around $2.2bn with the first data centre having been brought online in 2008.

And the cloud giant is only one of the mega multi-nationals who operate data centres in Ireland. Others include giant sites from AWS, Apple, Facebook and Google, all with large scale builds.

Since 2008, combined capital expenditure data on data centre investments in the country -either built or approved – shows the sector is set to top over $10bn by 2020.

Although Ireland, and especially Dublin, are far from reaching the likes of London, Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam, the country has seen one of the highest surge in data centre CAPEX in Europe – together with the Nordic region.

Such investment has put strain on the local electricity network, which according to Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board has placed some “unprecedented” demand for electricity.

An EirGrid spokesman told the Irish Independent: “Space at Grange Castle Business Park is in high demand from international business customers.

“To accommodate this growth, further power is required to meet both current electricity needs and to plan for future electricity demand.”

Part of that plan is set to be launched in the coming weeks and has been branded as ‘West Dublin Project’. The “tens of millions of Euros” project caters the construction of a substation exclusively dedicated to powering data centres. However, the station is scheduled to be completed only by 2019.

The EirGrid spokesperson added: “Given the lead times associated with transmission reinforcements, generation capacity or equivalent may need to be available in the Dublin region to accommodate this additional demand in the short term.

“A key driver for electricity demand in Ireland for the next number of years is the connection of large data centres.

“A significant proportion of this extra data centre load will materialise in the Dublin region.”

Speaking to Data Economy earlier in the year, Tanya Duncan, MD of Interxion Ireland, had already raised the issue surrounding the power-hungry sites built by hyperscalers.

She said: “We are very happy for the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Google, they are all here, which is great. They give us a name, a reputation and people see them here and they come to Ireland, so that is great, but on the other hand, they take a lot of the infrastructure in terms of power and whatever else and so we have to be very aware of what is happening with power and the uptake of power and that we are on the agenda as well.”