Site work commences on flagship Derry Data Centre

The CGI concept of how one of the Data Centres could look.
The CGI concept of how one of the Data Centres could look.

Preparatory works have begun on a major new flagship data centre project in Derry, with plans for a second ‘twin’ facility in Donegal.

International data centre developer, Atlantic Hub, has commenced preparatory works on site at the Foyle Port Innovation Park next to Coolkeeragh Power Station in Derry.

Coolkeragh: Photo � Kenneth Allen (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Coolkeragh: Photo � Kenneth Allen (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The plan is to create one of the largest and most advanced data centres in western Europe on a ‘twin campus’ in Derry and in Letterkenny, on sites with a combined total land mass of almost 100 acres.

Atlantic Hub has already secured planning permission for phase one at the Derry site and will now seek planning permission for the entire site. In Donegal, the company has secured a large site in the Letterkenny Technology Park and a planning application has been submitted.

Data centres are buildings which are used to house public sector, business and other organisations’ computer systems and associated communications and storage systems securely.

Brian Doherty, Managing Director of Atlantic Hub, said the north west was ideally located in terms of the climate, energy sources and due to the high speed trans-Atlantic cable linking the region to the U.S.

“With data centres the fundamental criteria is power connectivity and climate and Foyle Port is right beside Coolkeragh Power Station,” he said. “The site is ideal, it is just perfect.”

The project will link into the GTT Atlantic underwater cable (formerly known as Project Kelvin), which brought high speed communications to the north west several years ago. The works involve linking this to the data centre site and then linking in to other communication carriers, with benefits for existing and future businesses across Ireland and beyond. The split campus also ensures that services can run smoothly and consistently in the UK and in the EU whatever the outcome of Brexit.

The locations also have the natural geographical advantage of being in a central time-zone for daily business transactions with USA, Europe and Asia and makes Derry and Donegal attractive for outside investors whose data could be stored nearby.

“We are, at the moment, targeting large corporate players and we have just opened an office in Boston and hired staff there to promote the project in North America,” Mr. Doherty said.

“We have invested, to date, a large seven-figure sum,” but that investment will extend to tens of millions as the site is built out and, indeed, hundreds of millions if full capacity is achieved.

Mr. Doherty stressed that an anchor tenant for the mega-scale facility had not yet been secured but that preparation works were going ahead in Derry to ‘get the site effectively as ready as possible to start building.’

“We are hoping to secure an anchor tenant over the next few months and we have had a lot of interest,” he added. “We are hoping to have all the supporting infrastructure in place within 12 to 18 months and if we get a client before that, we will build out the data halls in parallel to that. Each centre will offer up to Tier 4 data centre services with low operational costs and the fastest connectivity available to north America supported by the trans-Atlantic cable.

The facilities will be run on 100 per cent green energy, taking advantage of the “glut” of wind and other natural sources locally. Mr. Doherty said this made the project attractive to businesses seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Another part of the project involves setting up a research and development facility on the Derry site.

At present, the only data centres in Ireland are located in the Dublin Metropolitan area, but Mr. Doherty said these new data centres in the north west will have faster connectivity to America and superfast connections to Dublin, London and other data centres in Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

He praised the ongoing support of both Donegal County Council and Derry City & Strabane District Council and, it is believed, the project could prove key to the wider regeneration of the north west economy. “We are particularly pleased to be bringing this development to the North West Region of Ireland and look forward to progressing the project over the coming months,” Mr Doherty concluded.