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A Shortage of Drinking Water and Electricity in Ireland

  • 13-07-2022 6:35pm
    Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭

    Given the current and future shortages of drinking water in Ireland, and also electricity, how on earth was it a good idea having so many data centres here storing information from across the globe?

    Some of the facts:

    One of Irelands SEVENTY data centres is now using the same amount of water as 20,000 people. It is now using TWICE the amount of clean water it did 36 months ago.

    AND it is now using the same amount of electricity as 151,000 HOMES!



  • Moderators, Education Moderators Posts: 5,011 Mod ✭✭✭✭G_R

    I don't believe anyone in Ireland is currently going without either Water or Electricity as a result of data centres.

    If you could provide proof they are, I would love to read it.

    Post edited by G_R on

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 47,863 CMod ✭✭✭✭magicbastarder

    whatever about water, there are concerns about the electricity supply, and the continued proliferation of data centres:

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,434 ✭✭✭zg3409

    Firstly a lot of this is hype. In terms of water Dublin needs cheap water, and the best way identified is to get cheap water from Shannon and use it in Dublin. This is needed with and without data centres. All other water options are more expensive.

    In terms of electricity if Russia turns off the gas then all countries will suffer at peak times. In terms of peak shortages there is plans to disconnect data centres if needed, and data centres all have back up generators. There is plans to run a power cable to France under the sea but that's more to add or sell green power and haggle better prices with the UK. There was also a court case about temporary winter capacity with the grid being prevented from some planned additional winter capacity. We also have various power stations that can go down for months due to faults or big refurbishment. Typically we have used gas at peak times each day as it was cheap.

    In the real world it's mostly all talk and we won't have any outages. There are various vested interest groups that like to claim the problem is critical, such as newspapers looking for a story.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,064 ✭✭✭plodder

    Can't read the Business Post article but the figures seem to be derived from Meta's own sustainability report. The water consumption in Clonee looks way higher than their other data centres, despite having lower electricity consumption. I wonder is it related to construction rather than operations. I can't see why a data centre would need to consume so much water? They really should explain this.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,119 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Potable water in Dublin is wasted by the leakage from the water mains - is it 40% to 50% leaks? - and there are many projects tackling this. If the leakage was down to 25% (which is tolerable) then the problem goes away. Irish Water need to up their game on this.

    Building a pipe from the Shannon to Dublin is a longer project, but worthy to solve the Dublin water requirements for the future, but leakage is a bigger solution.

    What do data centres use the water for?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 20,715 ✭✭✭✭Ash.J.Williams

    We will be giving 30% of the grid to data centres, that’s significant

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,715 ✭✭✭✭Ash.J.Williams

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,119 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    How do you cool a server room with water? Hose it down?

  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭GalwayMan74

    no, hosing it wouldn't work.

    you need to submerge it completely

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 11,689 Mod ✭✭✭✭Cookiemunster

    You can run chilled water through pipes past the heat sinks. I mean, it's not exactly rocket science and has been used for years in multiple applications.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,399 ✭✭✭KildareP

    Evaporative cooling.

    Draw hot air over water and the heat will cause some of the water to evaporate and rise and thus leave less heat in the remaining air.

    You then only need to manage the humidity of the air - which you can do by chilling water in offpeak hours (lower electrical demand) and then drawing on the chilled water during the day without needing to necessarily use significant amounts of enegy.

    Compared to full blown air conditioning it's significantly less energy intensive, but, as seen needs quite a significant amount of water to work (since most of the water ends up in the atmosphere).

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,064 ✭✭✭plodder

    So, it's a trade-off between electricity and water usage. Their lower electricity usage is offset by their enormous water usage. Jesus, we should be able to do better than that in a temperate climate like ours.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭M three

    Where did I say people are going without water or electricity due to date centres. But people will be faced with water shortages at the expense of data centres. And now that data centres consume almost 1/3 of Ireland electricity people are definitely paying a higher cost in part due to the enormous demand data centres have.

    Data centres have also wiped out thousands of acres of green fields around dublin. Facebook have at least 2 in clonee that wiped out a whole area of what was previously farmland.

    Not long ago there were protests about a fire in the amazon rainforest. People were chaining themselves to the railings of the Dail. At the same time a few miles out the road facebook were bulldozing farmland into oblivion.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,399 ✭✭✭KildareP

    The single biggest "consumer" of treated water is the leaky distribution network. At one stage almost half the water pumped into the network leaked before it ever got near a tap.

    The other thing that is oft ommitted in these reports though is, as a commercial customer, Facebook et al will be paying for that water based on consumption. All non-residential premises water supply has long been metered and consumption billed accordingly.

    Datacentres similarly pay enormous money to ESB Networks to bring the power infrastructure to them via connection charges, then they pay large standing charges based on the peak amount of energy they reckon they may need to draw (Maximum Import Capacity - MIC) and then all of the power they actually consume is metered.

    They're not getting water and electricity for free!

    Much of the current situation with power and water is purely down to attrocious planning and lack of investment in this country, not datacentres.

    There's been a massive push to switch heating and transport away from fossil fuel to electricity.

    There's been an equal push in the opposite direction to shut inefficient oil, gas and coal power stations in the interests of being green and the only generation being installed in its place was wind.

    Except no-one thought to make sure that as you wound down fossil fuel plants, you were replacing it with at least the equivalent amount of reliable, non-fossil produced energy - and even that's no use as that's only standing still while knowingly piling more demand onto the grid.

    Fast forward to now and our electricity usage has exploded and set to explode again over the many years ahead, even without a single new datacentre coming online, our grid has very little generation headroom during winter peaks, we know and knew wind can't on its own replace all of the traditional stations being closed and they've stalled, hummed and hawwed on projects that can at least help to bridge the gap between when wind can supply and when demand needs to be met - battery storage, hydro electricity generation, hydrogen production.

    Russia has just blown open the gaping hole by creating a potential massive gas shortage this winter and our only solution is to hastily start shovelling hundreds of thousands of tons of dirty coal into Moneypoint again and hoping and praying that it's a mild and very windy winter.

    Turn the datacentres off tonight and chances are in another year or so we'll be back in the exact same situation with all the new heatpump homes and EV's on the road and probably little further done to progress replacing fossil power with something reliable and sustainable.

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,441 ✭✭✭✭Thelonious Monk

    Sure the whole island is farmland, we wont be running out of farmland any time soon. We also have 7 million cattle on the island producing beef and dairy, they use an awful lot of water too, I'd love to know how much water is used for this kind of agriculture compared with data centres.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭M three

    Have you any info to show that data centres pay for the FULL cost of the infrastructure for power and water and the power and water itself?

    There is also upgrades and in some cases new roads put in for them, lighting, footpaths etc.

    Was told some time back that data centre companies pay for only half of the power infrastructure needed, ESB substation etc.

    The Irish taxpayer has to cover the remaining 50%.

    On top of the you have environmental destruction to greenfield sites, increased carbon emissions etc etc.

    Our water and power systems were already struggling BEFORE 70 massive data centres were allowed to set up here. Their presence here is not viable.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭M three

    Probably one for the agriculture category?

    data centres are already using a whopping 30% of electricity in Ireland.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,607 ✭✭✭timmyntc

    Jesus the whataboutery is strong with this one - grazing land uses little to no public water as it falls from the sky, unlike some crops grown here - some needing irrigation, like most of the greenhouse grown veg.

    And the comparison is also apples and oranges because beef and dairy turn water and other inputs into food, datacentres turn water and electricity into what? People's rants on twitter and the metaverse. I know which one I'd rather

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,399 ✭✭✭KildareP

    Yes, it's all regulated.

    Roads, lighting, footpaths, etc. will either be paid for direectly by the companies, or the local authority will provide them and then fund it via development contributions which will be laid out as part of the planning application being granted for the datacentre:

    Electricity - ESB Networks lay out clearly what the connection charges will be and the CRU sets out what the grid usage charges that contribute towards upkeep of the grid:

    Whoever the datacentre operator buys their electricity from then decides the unit rate on metered usage - which is ultimately whatever it costs the provider to either generate the electricity themselves or to buy it off someone who does generate electricity plus their margin for profit.

    Water - Irish Water similarly have a schedule of connection and usage charges but for quantities as large as a datacentre might consume it's quoted for based on actual cost as opposed to there being a defined, finite list of charges levied. Water is billed based on usage and this is also regulated by the CRU.

    Our water network was badly struggling before the datacentres arrived but significant investment has seen leakage get much better.

    Our electricity network however was not, so much that ESB were told to divest of 1.3GW of power generation capacity over a decade ago, mostly in order to try and increase competition but also because they had a monopoly on the amount of electricity they were ultimately able to generate. A few operators (Energia, Bord Gais) subsequently opened up gas plants of their own but ultimately I don't believe (without checking to confirm) that 1.3GW of generation ultimately replaced what they removed. In the near future, the ESB are supposed to retire Tarbert (620MW) next year and Moneypoint (915MW) by 2025, another 1.5GW of power to be removed. Wind, at best, could produce a record 4.5GW of the typical 7GW record peak demand, but on some calm days like last week it can generate as little as 100MW (0.1GW).

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,442 ✭✭✭bad2thebone

    It pissed rain there was it last week or the week before, I looked over the bridge to see how much water was running out from the sources. At least a foot and a half of water in the upper river Fergus above Corofin, took nearly two days to top up Lough Inchiquinn, then another two to drain it out of the lake,on towards the other Lough s in the Fergus system.

    The falls in Ennistymon were roaring for a few days, there's no shortage of water in this country.

    We could sell water to the middle east or barter for oil. We could refine it to crystal clear with the amount of gravel and sand that gets washed up send it off as clear water and at it's destination they can filter it more to be sure to be sure like...

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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,930 ✭✭✭spaceHopper

    In your car water circulates through pipes in the engine block and is then feed into the radiator which has cold air rushing over it to get rid of the hear. In a computer, they sickick a heat sink on tip of the processor, and water flow through pipes in it to a heat exchanger. Don't know why data centcentes need so much as they could have a closed system, or holding ponds.

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,715 ✭✭✭✭Ash.J.Williams

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,064 ✭✭✭plodder

    There isn't an overall shortage of water in this country but it's not all in the places where it's needed. So, if data centres are going to be using the equivalent water of 20,000 people they need to be contributing to projects like the Shannon pipeline, not just the local connection works, or else they should be located in places where there is less stress on local supplies.

    As regards electricity, they should be generating wind and solar on-site, and none of this business of buying up the output of windfarms away somewhere else. If they can't come up with a sustainable model locally, then what is the point of them?

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭M three

    Is it the case that monstrous data centres need a guaranteed supply of clean, treated, filtered drinking water for cooling? Rainwater cant be used.

    Without it the data centre cant cool itself, what are the risks then? Fire, explosion, meltdown?

    If thats the case is it likely that data centres will be prioritised over and above households who use water for sustaining life, cooking etc?

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 66,540 Mod ✭✭✭✭L1011

    You would need clean water or else you'll block up the cooling system. However, considering petrol station carwashes ahve been using filtered captured rainwater for about a decade now I don't see why it couldn't be a contributor to it

    Bog all use in a hot summer, though.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,484 ✭✭✭Topgear on Dave

    Meltdown. Fukushima style environmental disaster.

    Or they turn off some of their operations.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭M three

    Are you saying because there are carwashes then its ok to have data centres? We not have SEVENTY in Ireland!

    Given the environmental targets Ireland has signed up to wouldnt it be a better idea to REDUCE the amount of drinking water and electricity and carbon that is used & produced?

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,768 ✭✭✭circadian

    How many reservoirs are there in the country? An increasing population, especially around urban centres is going to create water stress. Just look at the UK, between Liverpool and Leeds is a huge urban area that is massively water stressed. The South East is in bits at the best of times.

    In saying that I'm a big fan of microgrids and on site collection and filtration, it's easily and cheaply done by modern technology. We have grants for making our homes more efficient, this should also be included.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 ✭✭✭M three

    Thats kinda my point. You are admitting that water supply is already under stress.

    So why be reckless and add to that? Given data centres use up and need so much household water for cooling. Data centres therefore run the risk of fire or explosion if they overheat. Is it reasonable to suggest that homes will be denied water in the event of a shortage?

    Its highly probable that in the event of a shortage supply of drinking water to homes will be shut off and data centres will continue to be fed colossal volumes of clean water.

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  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,119 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    My car has a cooling system that requires a water based fluid. I have yet to put any extra into the car in the last 5 years. It is a closed system, which would be the only feasible system for cooling using water.

    How is it possible that a sustainable cooling system could be an open system using huge volumes of water? Is there a link that describes the system or verifies their water consumption? It sounds made up.