Apple details efforts to ease environmental impact at Irish data center

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2016
In an effort to allay local concerns over a massive data center project in Galway, Ireland, Apple this week offered greater detail on environmental initiatives it has planned for the site, from forest repopulation to the creation of a public woodland walkway.


Rendering of completed Athenry data center.


Apple's intentions were outlined by its senior director of global data center services Robert Sharpe, who prepared a written statement for inclusion at an oral hearing in Galway County. A copy of the document obtained by TechInsider was published on Friday.

While construction is already underway at the Derrydonnell forest location, locals are concerned future expansions to the site will negatively impact the surrounding area. As proposed, the 850 million euro (about $950 million) facility could ultimately support eight data halls, to be built out over the course of 10 to 15 years, depending on capacity needs. Construction of the first structure has already been approved, but Apple will need to reapply for permits to build prior to starting work on each subsequent data hall.

An Irish planning board received complaints from concerned citizens and environmental groups as to why Apple selected the spot for its forthcoming European data hub.

"Derrydonnell forest, the site of the proposed development, offers a combination of factors that make it uniquely attractive for a data centre," Sharpe said. "It is a large site, currently used for commercial forestry, which sits extremely close to two major high voltage power transmission lines in an area rich in renewable energy resources."

Other topics broached during this week's hearing include construction noise, flooding as a result of deforestation and general environmental concerns. Sharpe, referencing Apple's existing data centers like the Maiden, North Carolina, complex, said the company has extensive experience in building and operating green facilities. Apple makes a concerted effort to conserve precious resources like water and energy, and the Ireland center would be no different, he said.

"The development includes a comprehensive drainage network of retention ponds and soak-away areas that mimic the behaviour of the site today so that there is no increased risk of flooding in the surrounding area," Sharpe said. "The only water the site will use from the town water supply will be drinking water and all other uses will be served by rainwater harvesting."

During construction, Apple plans to pave roads and use electric vehicles whenever possible to keep vibrations and dust to a minimum. The company intends to repopulate the area with native species of broadleaf trees which, once they mature, will serve to hide the data center from view. Apple also promised to protect and enhance areas where the protected wood bitter-vetch plant grows to minimize the impact on local wildlife.

Finally, Sharpe said Apple will build and maintain a five-kilometer woodland walkway and accompanying parking lot accessible to the public during daylight hours.

Apple attorney Rory Mulcahy spoke at the same hearing earlier this week, confirming that the data center will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources. Concerns over energy consumption were raised by a representative for a residents group who noted Apple would draw some 300 Megawatts of power if and when all eight data halls go online. Based on current energy usage statistics, that number represents approximately eight percent of Ireland's national capacity.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    irelandireland Posts: 17,794member
    One of the few corporations I'd actually trust. Just look at the impact Tim is having. He's a really great CEO for Apple.
    edited May 2016 messagepad2100potatoleeksoupksecbobschlobpropodjbdragonjony0badmonk
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Apple is one of the last companies I would worry about regarding environmental impact.
    SpamSandwichjony0badmonk
  • Reply 3 of 12
    ksecksec Posts: 1,568member
    Apple is one of the last companies I would worry about regarding environmental impact.

    ireland said:
    One of the few corporations I'd actually trust. Just look at the impact Tim is having. He's a really great CEO for Apple.
    Exactly, if they want ANY DC in ireland, Apple is the ONLY you have least to worry about.
    badmonk
  • Reply 4 of 12
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,586member
    Grandstanding. Nothing more.

    All these whiners have to do is look at Apple's history with regards to the environment. They're one of the few corporations in the world that can afford to be eco-friendly in all aspects (and one of the only one's that actually are). The only other corporations that come close to Apple's profits are the same companies that are robbing the planet of natural resources and polluting the environment at the same time. Meanwhile, Apple, the most criticized when it comes to the same issues, in fact, does just the opposite.
    badmonk
  • Reply 5 of 12
    irelandireland Posts: 17,794member
    mjtomlin said:
    Grandstanding. Nothing more.
    I'd highly doubt that. Ireland has a history of big companies abiding its resources. They are just concerned. It's important to hold even companies we like and trust feet to the fire to keep them keen anyway.
  • Reply 6 of 12
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    The 100% of energy from renewable sources is an interesting claim.  They have sited the installation close to two existing high voltage transmission lines and are not going to be building any dedicated energy generating infrastructure.   Where is this extra 300 Mw of electricity generation from renewables being sourced from?  They can't just hook up to the grid and make the claim their source is from renewables just because some of the national grid is supplied from renewables, unless an extra 300 Mw of renawbles sourced capacity is commissioned and added to the national grid.

    So what are the details of this extra 300 Mw in capacity as that is a very significant increase?  I get my own electricity from the countries largest renewable energy producer.  Their current capacity is 467 Mw.  They have 76 Mw more under construction.  So an additional 300 Mw would require an expansion of their capacity by 55% if they were to service Apple.

    The principle source of renewable electricity generation in Ireland is wind power.  While Ireland is generally very windy, there are periods when there is almost no wind whatsoever, such as been the case near me for the last several days.  At such times fossil fuels would be the source of almost all the electricity available on the grid and no consumer in the country could claim they are getting 100% of their electricity from renewables if they are connected to the national grid, as Apple is doing, so I would be interested in how Apple is going to achieve their claim.
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 7 of 12
    @cnocbui: If Apple finances renewable energy sources delivering as much yearly electricity as Apple uses, it will make good on the 100% renewables claim. Of course, until good energy storage solutions arrive, Ireland, like almost every other country in the world, will still depend on fossil fuels. Apple cannot change that. Only Ireland can.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    @cnocbui: If Apple finances renewable energy sources delivering as much yearly electricity as Apple uses, it will make good on the 100% renewables claim. Of course, until good energy storage solutions arrive, Ireland, like almost every other country in the world, will still depend on fossil fuels. Apple cannot change that. Only Ireland can.
    I fully expected there to be an announcement that Apple would finance renewable sources, that was in the original announcement, but the current crop of announcements seem to have pulled back from that to a very large extent, now only making a general statement that Apple will be obtaining their energy from a local supplier.  Given there are no storage solutions beyond pumping into a hydroelectric reservoir, that Ireland doesn't happen to have, I don't think any electricity consumer here should be claiming100% of their energy is supplied from intermittent renewables.

    I have seen a statement that 60% of proposed wind farm projects are currently tied up with challenges in the courts, so adding a large amount of extra capacity is not necessarily automatically achievable and shouldn't be taken for granted.
    edited May 2016 ireland
  • Reply 9 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Political blackmail and extortion, plain and simple.

    I'd really want to think twice about locating anywhere other than a privately owned seasteading location from now on, if I were Tim. Every snake on the planet wants to sink their teeth into Apple.
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 10 of 12
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Political blackmail and extortion, plain and simple.

    I'd really want to think twice about locating anywhere other than a privately owned seasteading location from now on, if I were Tim. Every snake on the planet wants to sink their teeth into Apple.
    What on earth are you talking about?
  • Reply 11 of 12
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member
    cnocbui said:
    Political blackmail and extortion, plain and simple.

    I'd really want to think twice about locating anywhere other than a privately owned seasteading location from now on, if I were Tim. Every snake on the planet wants to sink their teeth into Apple.
    What on earth are you talking about?
    He's opposed to local democratic structures or hearings regarding planning is my reading of his argument. Best to build it on a boat in the mid Atlantic. 
    cnocbui
  • Reply 12 of 12
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    asdasd said:
    cnocbui said:
    What on earth are you talking about?
    He's opposed to local democratic structures or hearings regarding planning is my reading of his argument. Best to build it on a boat in the mid Atlantic. 
    Oh that.  Well I gather construction has already begun.  I believe Apple may well have been given the land.  Good luck with building it mid Atlantic.  I would be willing to bet it will be up and running here several years sooner and for 1/200th the cost, but what's reality and logic compared to biting off your nose to spite your face for a principle.
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