US firm’s com­pound could power 18,000 homes

Irish Independent - - NEWS - John Mul­li­gan

Mi­crosoft had to build its own power sta­tion for huge data cen­tre

TECH gi­ant Mi­crosoft is be­ing forced to build its own power sta­tion in Dublin to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to one of its huge data cen­tres be­cause the lo­cal trans­mis­sion net­work hasn’t been up­graded quickly enough to meet a surge in de­mand.

EirGrid, the semi-State com­pany that controls the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion net­work, has warned that more tem­po­rary power gen­er­a­tion may be re­quired in Dublin un­til a huge up­grade of the sys­tem in the cap­i­tal is com­pleted.

Mi­crosoft, co-founded by Bill Gates, in­tends to in­stall 16 gas-pow­ered gen­er­a­tors at a site in Clon­dalkin, in the west of the cap­i­tal. The power gen­er­a­tion com­pound is de­signed to pro­vide up to 18 megawatts of elec­tric­ity to just one of its huge data cen­tres at the site.

Such elec­tric­ity out­put would be enough to power the equiv­a­lent of about 18,000 homes.

The Grange Cas­tle Busi­ness Park in Clon­dalkin is al­ready home to other data cen­tres op­er­ated by Mi­crosoft, and in­ter­net gi­ant Google and other com­pa­nies. The con­cen­tra­tion of data cen­tres there, and their rel­a­tively rapid de­ploy­ment, has placed enor­mous strain on the lo­cal elec­tric­ity net­work.

The Elec­tric­ity Sup­ply Board said yes­ter­day that one large data cen­tre can con­sume as much elec­tric­ity as a large re­gional town such as Drogheda and that the growth in elec­tric­ity de­mand be­cause of new and planned data cen­tres is “un­prece­dented”.

Mi­crosoft has four op­er­a­tional data cen­tres in Grange Cas­tle. Last year, it se­cured plan­ning per­mis­sion to build four more on the site that will prob­a­bly cost in the re­gion of €900m to build.

EirGrid con­firmed that the in­fra­struc­ture in and around the Grange Cas­tle Busi­ness Park is now strug­gling to meet the data cen­tre power de­mand.

“Space at Grange Cas­tle Busi­ness Park is in high de­mand from in­ter­na­tional busi­ness cus­tomers,” an EirGrid spokesman told the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent. “To ac­com­mo­date this growth, fur­ther power is re­quired to meet both cur­rent elec­tric­ity needs and to plan for fu­ture elec­tric­ity de­mand.”

He said that in the next few weeks, EirGrid is em­bark­ing on a ma­jor pro­ject to re­in­force the elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion sys­tem in the west of Dublin.

Called the ‘West Dublin Pro­ject’, the scheme will see tens of mil­lions of euro spent to con­struct a new sub­sta­tion to meet the en­ergy de­mand from data cen­tres in the area. But it won’t be com­pleted un­til 2019.

“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,” added the EirGrid spokesman.

A Mi­crosoft spokesper­son in­sisted that its new power com­pound would only pro­vide tem­po­rary power to its data cen­tre “if nec­es­sary”.

An ESB Net­works spokesman pointed out there are cur­rently five large sub­sta­tions in Dublin, and apart from the new Grange Cas­tle sub­sta­tion, an­other new fa­cil­ity is be­ing built at Bel­camp, north of the city.

Mi­crosoft and other com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Amazon, Google and Face­book have in­vested bil­lions of euro in data cen­tres here over the past num­ber of years. But last year, the boss of Mi­crosoft Ire­land, Cathri­ona Hal­la­han, raised con­cerns with the Gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing the se­cu­rity of en­ergy sup­ply in Ire­land to fa­cil­i­tate the con­tin­ued de­ploy­ment of such fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try.

The data cen­tre op­er­a­tions are used by Mi­crosoft as cloud com­put­ing hubs.

“A key driver for elec­tric­ity de­mand in Ire­land for the next num­ber of years is the con­nec­tion of large data cen­tres,” said the EirGrid spokesman. “A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of this ex­tra data cen­tre load will ma­te­ri­alise in the Dublin re­gion.”

Mi­crosoft in­tends to in­stall 16 gas-pow­ered gen­er­a­tors at a site in Clon­dalkin in the west of the cap­i­tal

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