What we know about Apple’s plans for the Athenry data centre

The new €850 million Apple data centre announced for Athenry this week will be one of the most advanced of its kind developed by the company to date.

Apple has pledged that the centre will run entirely on clean, renewable, energy from day one, no small feat for a facility with vast energy requirements, though the company has moved all of its data centres towards renewable energy for the past few years.

Apple has yet to outline exact plans for how it will power the Athenry facility, though it has stated it will “work with local partners to develop additional renewable energy projects from wind or other sources to provide power in the future”.

“These facilities will have the lowest environmental impact yet for an Apple data centre,” the company said in a statement this week.

The west of Ireland’s cool, temperate, climate will undoubtedly help the company’s goal of reducing environmental impact, given the fact that one of the main energy demands in a data centre is in cooling the multitude of servers which are stored in the facility. This task depends heavily on refrigeration in warmer countries, but could be achieved in our climate by pumping outside air into the centre’s cooling systems.

This process, already used in several Apple data centres, is so inexpensive that it is often referred to as “free cooling”.

Apple has invested heavily in renewable energy and lowering consumption in recent years; the company even plans to develop an $850 million solar farm in California to power all of its operations in the US state.

The Athenry facility is one of two data centres being built by Apple in Europe, with the other situated in Viborg, Denmark, and both are earmarked for completion in 2017. These two centres will provide cloud storage for Apple customers across Europe accessing services including the iTunes Store, the App Store, iMessage, Apple Maps, and Siri.

The data centre will extend to some 166,000sq m and be built on land owned by Coillte in Derrydonnell, formerly used for commercial forestry. Apple plans to re-plant part of the land with native trees and provide an outdoor education space as part of the development, along with a walking trail for the community.


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