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Sign of the times

Protests in Ireland highlight growing concerns about proliferation of data centers

Underscoring the growing tension between digital expansion and environmental concerns, Futureproof Clare, a grassroots environmental group, has launched a judicial review against the recently approved EUR 450 million Ennis data center County Clare, Ireland. The sprawling 145-acre project, with an annual electricity consumption equivalent to 210,000 households, plans to draw power from both the national grid and an on-site, fossil gas-fueled plant, backed up by 66 diesel generators. Critics argue that the unchecked proliferation of data centers threatens Ireland's emission reduction targets and its commitment to a green energy transition, with the Ennis project alone expected to produce up to 657,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

Given the surge in AI use, analysts at Goldman Sachs Research estimate that power needed for data centers will grow 160% by 2030. They believe the accompanying rise in carbon dioxide emissions will represent a social cost of USD 125 to 140 billion.

As public scrutiny intensifies, the dispute over the Ennis data center serves as a microcosm of a larger global challenge: balancing the energy demands of an increasingly digital economy with the urgent need to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The conflict highlights the critical need for businesses to align their digital growth strategies with sustainability objectives, addressing environmental concerns head-on and investing in cleaner, more efficient technologies. As communities push back against the environmental and health toll of these facilities, companies that navigate this complex landscape with transparency, innovation and a genuine commitment to sustainability are likely to emerge as leaders.

Spotted by: Amber Desprets