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Some may consider that to be nothing more than a formality, but there are numerous examples in the Computer Weekly news archives of major, high-profile datacentre operators whose construction plans have fallen foul of the Irish planning system.All these stories pale in comparison, though, to the planning issues and delays Apple has come up against since making known its intentions to build a €850m datacentre in the town of Athenry, County Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, in February 2015.Computer Weekly invited both parties to take part in an interview, in the hope of gleaning a little more detail about the nature of their objections to the build and the motivation behind them, but received no response from either.Similarly, attempts to solicit a response from Apple about the case were also met with silence.The objectors have also raised red flags about how Eirgrid, Ireland’s version of the National Grid, will be able to cope with the volume of electricity Apple will need to power its datacentre.This point was addressed by Fredrick Freeman, programme manager for Apple’s Global Energy Team, during the ABP oral hearing, where he outlined a commitment made by the company to supply the Irish National Grid with the same amount of renewable energy as its datacentres consume.Apple has only sought planning permission for one data hall so far, but has set out plans to build seven more – over the course of the next 10 to 15 years – that will be supported by 144 diesel backup generators.The first phase of the project will see 18 generators installed on-site, which Daly (and his fellow objectors) claim could have a detrimental effect on noise levels and air quality in the surrounding area.
The plausibility of Apple’s 100% renewable power pledge has also been picked apart by the objectors, prompting the company to reveal details – during the oral hearing – of a contract it has signed with Irish renewable energy provider, Vayu, to power the site.
In the Apple case, there are two individuals – Allan Daly and Sinead Fitzpatrick – pursuing the judicial review against ABP, who are understood to live locally.
Fitzpatrick works as a solicitor, and Daly’s background is thought to be in environmental engineering.
Both Daly and Fitzpatrick are also named alongside a dozen or so individuals and third-party organisations as objectors in the ABP review into Galway County Council’s decision to approve the project.
This process saw representatives from Apple, and the third-party contractors it employs, directly address a multitude of concerns raised by the objectors during a week-long oral hearing in May 2016.“By locating a large energy user in the west of Ireland, which is interested in procuring renewable energy, a lot of that is taken care of, and is probably a big reason why Apple has favoured Athenry over other parts of the country.” From a transport links perspective, Athenry has more going for it than the objectors seem to give the location credit for, given the datacentre will be run, operated and managed by a single tenant, he adds.