Can we make the internet less power-thirsty?
So much of what we do every day involves a data centre. Shopping online, streaming TV shows, reading this story – they all need data to be stored and readily available.
The immediacy and convenience of those services are great, but that comes at a cost.
Data centres need huge amounts of electricity to keep them going – a large facility will use as much electricity as a medium-sized town.
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The situation is particularly acute in Ireland, where a relatively small electricity grid is hosting a ballooning number of data centres.
More than 20 of these are in Dublin where Microsoft and Amazon have built very large sites.
Altogether the nation hosts 75 data centres with 11 more under construction and, according to energy consultants Baringa, they could take up 27% of the national electricity output by 2029.
That alarming demand for electricity has forced the Irish government to take action.
Sustainability is now a pre-condition of approval for new data centres with the government stating that “new-build data centres must be able to flexibly reduce power consumption”.