Apple Defends 15-Year Development Plan for Irish Data Center Amidst Environmental Concerns

Over a year after announcing its plan to spend $2 billion on new data centers in Ireland and Denmark, Apple is now defending its decision for the former location amidst rising concern that its state-of-the-art facilities will have negative effects on local animal populations, and could lead to potential flooding concerns on a neighboring golf course (via Business Insider).

Irish planning body An Bord Pleanála managed to temporarily halt construction of the Ireland-based data center thanks to these concerns, which were brought to it by a number of individuals and organizations. Its biggest question was asking why Apple chose the middle of Derrydonnell forest in Galway County, Ireland as its planned site for the server farm, given that there are other places in Ireland designated specifically for data center construction.

apple_nc_data_center_solar
Solar panels at Apple's data center in Maiden, North Carolina

Apple's senior director of global data center services, Robert Sharpe, explained the vital nature of the European data centers as part of Apple's continued expansion and support for its various services like the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Sharpe said that Apple must pursue this phased development (the Derrydonnell Forest center would be constructed over 10-15 years) to continue to accommodate for more smartphones, more services, and more users expecting quality experiences out of both.
"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."
During the hearing, Sharpe also addressed the environmental concerns raised by locals of the county, claiming that there would be both limited visual pollution to the area thanks to the thickness of the forestry, and that Apple would replenish any wildlife it removed during construction.
"The site presents us with an ideal opportunity to develop a very large, sustainable data centre, which meets our projected needs over the next 10 to 15 years. The woodland will enable us to make the site largely invisible beyond the site and we are able to improve the overall biodiversity of the site by increasing the proportion of native broadleaf trees."
The site in Ireland is planned to consist of eight total buildings each housing thousands of servers for Apple's various online services. The company's original planning application -- which has now been halted by An Bord Pleanála -- is for just one of the eight buildings, so it will have to reapply for each future planned expansion over the next estimated 10-15 years. There was no word yet on the outcome of the hearing in Ireland.

Sharpe address the various concerns presented to Apple -- including flooding issues and water drainage plans -- in his full opening statement.



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29 months ago
Ok, so. Now it may seem that I have a reputation for ragging on Apple, but I do still prefer and buy their products so it’s not all negative.
Can anybody explain with GOOD reason, ‘why Apple chose the middle of Derrydonnell forest in Galway County, Ireland as its planned site for the server farm, given that there are other places in Ireland designated specifically for data center construction.’.
To me it appears that they are going to destroy the environment whilst there are already brownfield sites available for them.
Rating: 6 Votes
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29 months ago

Loving Apple's environmental approach, why is Samsung not copying this?

Apple uses the environment as a marketing tool, others are also doing the same thing, but aren't being so vocal about it
Rating: 4 Votes
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29 months ago
Come on Apple building in the middle of a Forrest is no way to save the environment.
It may be a commercial Forrest but building your data centres which are massive building there means there will be no forest at all where your buildings are.

Why not use one of the sites that have been pre approved?
Rating: 4 Votes
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29 months ago
Chop down the forests. I need my Goat Simulator.
Rating: 3 Votes
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29 months ago

The reasons they chose the site are spelled out in the article.

Also, just because some politicians at a local or regional level took an old section of town and said "data centers go here" does not mean that any forward planning or infrastructure (power & water) have been improved enough to support a large one.


You think the current power and water infrastructure in the forest is better than what they have in place for that "old section" of town?
Rating: 3 Votes
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29 months ago
Apple should use sites that are already dedicated for the use they want it for. It's hardly faire on the wildlife to just kill them and churn up all the homes and supporting habitats in the area for the wildlife. If their are sites that already have reduced wildlife.
Hmm seems to me that Apple's money has bought them what the want. In this instance they should be ashamed to use the 'environment' for marketing.
Rating: 2 Votes
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29 months ago
It's important to factor in that it is highly likely that no matter where Apple might have chosen to build this facility in Ireland, there would surely be some objection of a very local nature stopping it in it's tracks.
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Apple should use sites that are already dedicated for the use they want it for. It's hardly faire on the wildlife to just kill them and churn up all the homes and supporting habitats in the area for the wildlife. If their are sites that already have reduced wildlife.
Hmm seems to me that Apple's money has bought them what the want. In this instance they should be ashamed to use the 'environment' for marketing.


It's not a natural forest and you don't really find much wildlife in a farmed forest, you do realise they are cut down every so often regardless of the "wildlife" of which in Ireland is nothing like what you find in North America or Asia. There are no dangerous animals. Nothing poisonous. No bears. No big cats. No Elephants. No snakes. No deadly insects. From the best of my knowledge these are commercial trees which as I have already pointed out have done more harm to Ireland environment than good.

The real destruction of native wildlife happened as the English colonised Ireland in earnest. Introducing non native animals and also cutting down all the natural hardwood forests. Such is the way of things.

If you read the article it's most likely the Golf course owners kicking up more of a fuss. The wildlife angle is an easy focus to make some big story.
Rating: 2 Votes
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29 months ago
Ok, some context here (I live in Ireland). The first thing to observe is that there is a general tendency towards NIMBYism in Ireland. This can be both pro- and anti-environment, depending on the situation. Some people don't want wind turbines blotting their skyline, others fear large data centers flooding their golf courses. As this is already a commercial forest, it is quite likely that it is composed entirely of non-native coniferous trees that were planted in the country, from the 1960s, onwards. These were grown largely to provide biomass for energy, and other projects. They're dreadful things, however. And in some ways, they've blocked the more serious task of building out real forest in the country (which we need, for all kinds of reasons). The planning process in Ireland is not very open, to my knowledge, but citizens do have the possibility in certain circumstances to demand hearings or inquiries, and my guess is that this is what has caused the delay here. No clue how the process will be resolved, but the Irish state has generally been quite favorable to Apple (i.e., the country is effectively a tax haven for the company!). If precedent is any indicator, this will be approved. In the end, given Apple's focus on renewable energy, that's probably closest thing to a win-win for the local environment. And the economy may benefit, too. But longer-term, Apple still have serious EU-level cases outstanding when it comes to Irish tax policy. That's the real story to watch.
Rating: 2 Votes
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29 months ago

Loving Apple's environmental approach, why is Samsung not copying this?

Could it be they aren't as vocal as Apple about their sustainability and environmental efforts?
http://www.samsung.com/us/aboutsamsung/sustainability/sustainablemanagement/
Rating: 2 Votes
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29 months ago

Also, just because some politicians at a local or regional level took an old section of town and said "data centers go here" does not mean that any forward planning or infrastructure (power & water) have been improved enough to support a large one.


Nope. Not even close. Ireland has at least 15 data centers, including centers for MS, Google, Amazon, and fairly soon Facebook. So the infrastructure is there, and that infrastructure can support a large data center. Multiple larger ones actually. Apple has their reasons for wanting to build where they want to build. Lack of infrastructure in the designated areas for data centers is not one of those reasons.
Rating: 1 Votes
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