With doubts emerging over whether computer giant Apple intends to proceed with a proposed €850m data centre in Athenry following legal delays, Clare County Council has moved to identify sites suitable for large-scale data centres in the county.

Last week the Taoiseach met with Apple’s chief executive officer, however, Tim Cook refused to be drawn on whether the huge project planned for Galway will proceed. On Monday, the local authority issued a statement saying it is now seeking expressions of interest from landowners, companies and developers who own or can identify sites that will support the development of one or more large-scale data centres.

According to the council’s economic development directorate, a number of potential sites have already been identified in Shannon, Ennis, Scarriff and Clarecastle. Clare County Council is seeking to identify land-banks of up to 50 acres which should be fit for purpose and with the potential for future expansion possibilities.
Commenting on the initiative, the council’s chief executive Pat Dowling said, “With a newly adopted statutory land-use and economic Clare County Development Plan up to 2023, Clare County Council is seeking, through its economic promotion and infrastructural development remit, companies and partners to identify sites which could credibly support the needs of such projects of scale and deliver one or a number data centres.”
Mr Dowling said the wealth of natural resources, geographic and infrastructural advantages and a significant number of developable land-banks “uniquely positions the county as a prime location” for the development of data centres.
He explained, “An overall net producer of electricity, County Clare with its cool temperate climate, located on the Atlantic seaboard and Shannon Estuary has a secure, uninterrupted and renewable energy supply and is Ireland’s leader in low carbon and renewable energy generation.
“With access to the talent of half a million people within a one-hour commute and a highly-educated workforce, the county has a long track record as a location for global business.  Clare is home to the world’s leading companies, all of which have been attracted to the area by the exceptional pro-business environment, direct access to EU markets and fibre optic connectivity to the US and the rest of Europe.”
Brian McCarthy, the chief planning officer and acting director of economic development, added that the local authority has a remit to secure its economic and land use objectives based on a strategic planning framework.  “By facilitating, coordinating and encouraging the development and delivery of a range of physical and economic infrastructure, including data centres, Clare County Council is a key driver of economic development and competitiveness in Clare, the Mid West Region and Ireland.”
Explaining the process for those wishing to express interest, Mr McCarthy said, “Once the sites are identified the company or partner will be required to identify and market the sites and potential opportunities to global companies and data centre clients.  The outcome is the entering into a joint venture through a partnership with Clare County Council and other stakeholders, and crucially the delivery of a data centre in County Clare before 2023.”  The call for expressions of interest from landowners and developers is now advertised on the eTenders website, closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 19th January 2018.