A planned floating data center in Limerick, Ireland is under threat again after a new wave of objections were brought against the project.

The £40 million (€35m) facility was proposed by California-based startup Nautilus Data Technologies in December 2018 and has since received planning permission from Limerick City County Council, despite previous appeals against the project.

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– Nautilus Data Centers

In deep water

Limerick Port Users Group, a collection of local business owners, launched the appeal against the project as they are concerned that the location of the static floating data center will take up a large amount of space in the dock, hampering other business in the area.

Speaking to Fora, Liam Woulfe, chairman for the Limerick Port Users Group, said: “The current proposition is just for the wrong location because this project would place too much risk on the quite busy and developing shipping operations through Limerick Port.

“The bottom line for Limerick Port Users is that there is a win-win for Limerick if this data center - which to us is not compatible with busy regular shipping activities - is accommodated away from the busy and continuously developing shipping activities of Limerick dock area.”

For the floating facility to go ahead, the project needs to be approved by the National Planning Authority. The planning board is due to make a decision this August, but Nautilus fears these new objections may delay this process.

James L. Connaughton, president of Nautilus, said: “The main issue raised in the appeal is whether there are capacity of constraints at Limerick Docklands.

“Currently, just 18 percent is used, leaving ample room for new business. We believe Nautilus should have the same ability as any other port user to licence available berth space for a vessel.

“Our operations will provide innovative technology and new revenues which will help modernist port infrastructure and sustain port operations over the long term.”

In a previous appeal filed by the Limerick Port Users Group before the project received planning permission, the group found that the Nautilus facility would “severely and irrevocably compromise the ability of the port to meet the existing needs of its users. The Limerick Port users have conducted a study which outlines the proposed development will reduce the capacity of the dock by 23 percent, severely hindering its ability to handle current tonnage levels and hinder future development.”

The Shannon Foynes Port company who submitted the original application for the facility has said that these claims about the port’s capacity are unfounded.

If approved and built, Nautilus' facility would become the world's first commercial data center to be installed on a barge. Designed to deliver high-efficiency hosting from moorings, the barge would be running the surrounding water through a secondary circulating system, so the facility would effectively operate without consuming any additional water.

The Limerick Docks data center, matching the size of vessels already present at the site, would comprise four data halls spanning two floors above deck, with cooling and power systems below. And, just like regular mooring vessels, the barge would be tied to the docks and accessible via a gangway ramp.