Apple Cancels Plans For Galway Data Centre

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Too much opposition to high tech facility that supposedly could have increased Ireland’s electricity consumption by 8 percent

Apple has scrapped its plans to build its controversial £747m data centre in County Galway, Ireland.

Apple had first mooted the idea in 2015, and the facility was to create 300 temporary jobs and up to 150 permanent staff required to run the data centre upon its completion.

But now Apple has decided to withdraw its plans after stiff opposition from both locals and court battles with conservationists, coupled with delays in the planning process.

Local opposition

The Galway data centre was to be one of two new data centres Apple was planning to build in Europe.

The second “state of the art facility” is still currently being built in Viborg, Denmark.

Apple had applied in April 2015 for a 500-acre site in Athenry, County Galway, that included a single storey data centre building that will be 263,000ft², along with a single-storey “logistics and administration building” which would cover 56,000ft².

The site had hoped to be operational by 2017.

But Apple’s plan had been opposed by many in the local community.

Local residents argued that the data centre would negatively impact a nearby primary school, as well as affect local wildlife.

When it filed for planning permission, Apple had said that it would build an ‘outdoor classroom’ for the 227 pupils at the nearby Lisheenskyle primary school.

But the residents in Lisheenskyle argued that the location of Apple’s data centre would be “inadequate”, and generators from the site could cause noise and vibration issues.

Residents were also concerned about the impact the data centre could have on nearby herds of sheep, cows, and ponies.

And there was concern about the energy consumption of the new data centre after documents available through Galway County Council’s website appeared to show that Apple’s Irish data centre would increase the electricity consumption of Ireland by 8.2 percent, according to calculations done by a person named Allan Daly.

Plans scrapped

All of this opposition contributed to Apple’s decision to pull the plug.

“Several years ago we applied to build a data centre at Athenry,” Apple was quoted by the BBC as saying. “Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre.”

“We’ve been operating in Ireland since 1980 and we’re proud of the many contributions we make to the economy and job creation,” said Apple. “In the last two years we’ve spent over €550 million with local companies and, all told, our investment and innovation supports more than 25,000 jobs up and down the country.”

“We’re deeply committed to our employees and customers in Ireland and are expanding our operations in Cork, with a new facility for our talented team there,” it reportedly added.

Disappointed government

The Irish government expressed its disappointment at the decision.

The Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys was quoted by the BBC as saying that the project “would have been a source of significant investment and job creation for Galway and the west of Ireland.”

She said the Irish government did everything it could to support the investment.

“This included high-level engagement with the company, both at home and abroad,” Humphreys added. “Ultimately, in spite of these efforts, Apple has taken a commercial decision not to proceed, making it clear that the delays that beset this project caused them to reconsider their plans.”

Humphreys said the delays emphasised the need to make the Republic of Ireland’s planning and legal processes more efficient, and that the government will “ensure we are better placed to take advantage of future such investment opportunities, whether from data centre providers or other sectors.”

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