Biocore specialises in producing methane gas through the anaerobic digestion process, gas which can be used to power combined heat and power (CHP) generators producing electricity, or which can be processed further and supplied directly to the national gas network. Echelon, which has six sites in Ireland and the UK with up to 500MW of capacity, is committed to sustainable operations, one element of which is exploring ways in which its facilities can be powered cleanly and sustainably.

Niall Molloy, CEO of Echelon Data Centres, believes that as demand for data processing, management and storage facilities continues to increase, driven by society’s increasing reliance on tech and its application in everyday life, data centre operators must focus on, and facilitate, the provision of clean and sustainable power to their facilities.

“The inconvenient truth is that data centres are huge consumers of power – but equally inconvenient is the fact that without them, we would not be enjoying – relying on – the benefits of 5G, e-commerce, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (machine learning) and virtual reality. Given, therefore, that data centres are here to stay, it’s up to us – the facilities’ owners and operators – to make provision to power them sustainably, cleanly and with least impact on the grid.

“Our agreement with Biocore, which would see a renewable biogas facility co-located with a 100MW data centre on our DUB20 site is a landmark initiative which could assist in providing a renewable back-up power solution for the facility, while also making productive use of organic material and returning value in terms of fertiliser stock for Irish agriculture.”

“We recently signed an agreement with SSE Renewables to co-locate a substation on our DUB20 (Arklow) site which will facilitate the development of Ireland’s largest off-shore windfarm, supplying some 520MW of renewable power through the substation to the national grid. The substation will also supply power to our data centre.

“On our DUB10 (Clondalkin) site, we have planning permission for a 100MVA gas-fired energy centre, which will help smooth the flow in the grid (enabling the transition to 100% renewable energy), while providing back-up power for the facility thereby doing away with the need for diesel generators.“

Declan Murray, Managing Director of Biocore Environmental Ltd, welcomed the agreement with Echelon, highlighting the mostly untapped potential in biogas production, both as a completely sustainable and eco-friendly method of producing fuel and also as a way of solving problems associated with the recovery of biodegradable material.

“Biogas production is a virtuous circle – we take organic materials that can, themselves, become environmental pollutants, and transform them into gas either for supply to the gas network, or for use in generating power.

“The residue from the production process is dried and re-supplied to the farms from which much of our organic feedstock can be sourced. This residue makes an excellent fertiliser – and means that none of the organic material goes to waste.

“Our relationship with Echelon will be a symbiotic one – we can use the heat that is generated by the data centre to maintain our biogas production process, and the biogas produced can assist the data centre in terms of producing power for storage in back-up battery arrays.

“One of the by-products of the gas cleaning process – before it is introduced to the gas network, for supply to homes and businesses – is carbon dioxide. This is an effective fertiliser for plant products cultivated under cover and, of course, the Echelon DUB20 site has the space to host such enterprises in the future.”

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