Many data centre operators are now buying renewable energy, but only a handful of projects are actually integrating green power generation into their campuses. Echelon Data Centres is bringing this concept to the Dublin market, one of Europe’s most important cloud computing hubs.

Echelon, which launched in 2017 and now has seven projects in the works, sees its strategy as the next phase of data centre development.

“Our view is that the whole industry is going more towards sustainability, and it makes sense to look for sites where you can include a sustainable component,” said Damien Gaynor, Chief Marketing Officer of Echelon Data Centres.

The view is reflected in the company’s DUB20 data centre in Arklow, Ireland, about 35 miles south of Dublin. The project will feature Ireland’s first large-scale offshore wind farm and a data centre campus that will support up to 100 megawatts of capacity. Echelon and green energy developer SSE Renewables will develop a joint 220kV substation at the Avoca River Business Park, in Arklow that will provide direct energy to the data centre and also route offshore wind energy to the Irish national grid.

“It is a model for the future, where data centre facilities are located close to the source of renewable energy, providing a constant demand for the power and working with renewable energy providers to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure,” said Echelon CEO Niall Molloy. “The initiative represents meaningful progress on the road to cleanly and sustainably powered data centres.”

The proposed Arklow Bank Wind Park Phase 2 has capacity of 520MW and will be located in shallow waters at Arklow Bank in the Irish Sea, and will comprise of up to 76 offshore wind turbines. When completed, it will generate enough renewable energy to power almost 450,000 homes annually and offset over half a million tons of carbon emissions each year.

The deal is an important step towards a key decarbonization goal in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan and helps deliver on its Climate Action Plan target of installing 1GW of offshore wind by 2025. Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin called the arrangement “a model which could be rolled out in other communities across the country.”

Multiple Projects in the Works

Echelon expects the Arklow project to come online on the third quarter of 2022. The company has four projects underway in Ireland, two in London and s development underway in Frankfurt. CEO Molloy is the principal of Aldgate Developments, a leading developer of office projects in London.

“We’re trying to build a platform, we’re well funded and have partners we’ve worked with extensively before,” said Gaynor. “Our view is that the next wave (of data centre development) has to be outside the city centres. We think the hyperscalers may want to look at new availability zones in these kind of areas. We’re looking at larger sites around Europe.”

That includes a new data centre in Clondalkin, a major data centre district west of Dublin that is home to major cloud campuses for Microsoft, Google, Amazon Web Services and Digital Realty, among others. The first phase of the project is scheduled to come online late this year.

Although Echelon likes the suburbs, it also is developing a 20-megawatt data centre in the Docklands, the connectivity hub for London. The project features both a powered shell data center and office space overlooking the Thames.

Catching the Wind in Ireland

Echelon’s Arklow project fits neatly into the growth story for Ireland’s data centre industry. There are now 66 data centres that are operational, planned or under construction in Ireland, according to industry trade group Host in Ireland.

The industry is a growing component of Ireland’s “renewable first” strategy. Data centre carbon emissions are currently 1.58% of Ireland’s total emissions, according to research from Host in Ireland and Bitpower. As it continues to grow along with the cloud, the data centre industry’s CO2 will level off at about 2.2% of Ireland’s total emissions by 2025.

“The growth of the Irish data centre industry will go hand-in-hand with the development of green electricity to meet power availability demands,” said Garry Connolly, president and founder of Host in Ireland. “Wind generation is virtually an untapped resource of green electricity within Ireland’s borders and coastline and provides limitless opportunities for both Ireland and the industry.”

 

(Article first published by Rich Miller in Data Center Frontier, January 11 2021)