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Energy consumption concerns loom over Apple's proposed Irish data center

In a hearing in Galway, Ireland on Tuesday, Apple fielded concerns from locals regarding a planned data center that is shaping up to be the country's largest consumer of electricity, with some estimates placing usage rates surpassing Dublin's entire daily supply.

When Apple announced intent to open a pair of European data centers last year, it said the 850 million euro (about $950 million) Irish facility would be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. While those plans still hold, Apple attorney Rory Mulcahy at yesterday's meeting revealed the company is not proposing on-site generators, but will instead connect to the national grid, the Irish Independent reports.

The new information seemingly contradicts Apple's own Environmental Impact Statement released last June, which noted the 263,770-square-foot building would be powered in part by 18 generators. In any case, Mulcahy said the facility's power will come from a local renewable energy provider. Apple relies on energy partners at other server facilities, including a large complex in North Carolina that boasts one of America's largest privately owned solar farms.

Despite Apple's efforts to keep its Galway operation green, residents have expressed concern over the build's environmental impact. Oisin Collins, a representative for a residents group, said Apple would ultimately draw 300 Megawatts of power if and when the data center finishes expansion in 15 years. That number represents approximately eight percent of Ireland's national capacity.

Responding to Collins, Mulcahy said Apple's current timeline does not require an increase in Ireland's generation capacity. It is not clear if the comments take into account forthcoming expansions to the state-owned EirGrid power transmission network.

In light of appeals concerning potential negative impact to energy supply, wildlife, climate change and other environmental factors, the Galway county council has stipulated that Apple reapply for permits prior to constructing each of eight planned server halls. The first hall is currently under construction. When the data center goes online it will serve up iTunes, iCloud and other internet services content to European consumers.