Nearly a dozen data centers are set to be connected to Dublin’s gas network to compensate for the lack of connection to Ireland’s electricity grid.
First reported by The Times, eleven data centers have received authorization to be connected to the Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) pipeline as the industry is currently barred from new connections to Dublin’s electric grid.
A number of facilities were looking to rely solely on natural gas from the country’s gas network in lieu of an EirGrid connection – known as ‘islanded’ facilities. The exact number had not been known until recently.
“I have been advised by GNI that there is currently one data center connected to the gas network which is consuming gas in island mode in advance of completion of its electrical grid power connection,” Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate, and Communications said in a Dáil Éireann debate last month.
“GNI further inform me that as of February 2023, 11 data center sites are contracted to connect to the gas network and are currently anticipated to be enduring connections. Eight of these may utilize gas in island mode,” he added.
While the government has repeatedly said there is no national ban on data centers, a de facto moratorium has been in operation since the turn of 2022 in Dublin after grid operator EirGrid said the grid in the capital was under strain.
No new data center applications are expected to be granted a grid connection before 2028.
The pause on new grid connections saw Interxion (Digital Realty) pause plans for expansion in the area as a result, while Dataplex entered voluntary liquidation after EirGrid denied power contracts at two data center sites. Microsoft, AWS, and Equinix have also reportedly paused projects in the area.
Applications previously granted a connection before the ban came into force, estimated to add up to more than 1GW of developments, are still set to be built and connected. Projects with planning permission but no authorized grid connection are unlikely to be able to go ahead.
The number of ’islanded’ data centers relying on gas isn’t likely to increase, however, as last year Minister Ryan instructed GNI not to provide any more connections to data centers that are going to rely exclusively on gas for power.
Ryan said the location of the connected facilities couldn’t be shared due to commercial sensitivity and confidentiality.
Last year saw Microsoft file for permission to build a gas power plant at an upcoming data center development. AWS has filed for permission to run a large amount of generators across its campuses in the area.