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“Fuel cell-powered” data center planned in Ireland

SK Ecoplant and Lumcloon Energy are planning a new data center in Ireland that will rely on gas-powered fuel cells rather than a grid connection.

First reported by the Irish Times, the companies are reportedly planning a “fuel cell-powered data center” in Ireland.

SK ecoplant lumcloon - Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment

– Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment

The agreement was signed between the Irish development company and SK Group’s construction subsidiary this week during an Irish trade mission to South Korea.

Details – including data center specifications, location, and development timelines – were not shared. The fuel cells will initially be powered by natural gas.

“Together they’re going to build Europe’s first fuel cell powered data center in Ireland, which I think is strategically very important because, of course, the energy that data centers use and the pressure that puts on the grid and the carbon footprint of data centers has been a source of a lot of political debate in the last number of years,” Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Simon Coveney said.

He continued: “If we can build data centers that are powered by fuel cell technology, initially gas, but in the future hydrogen, then that really does change the dynamic in that area, which I think is very exciting. And they’re very anxious to make this work and to show that Europe’s first fuel cell power data center can effectively become a template for many other data centers in the future.”

The respective companies have not made any announcements about the project yet.

Founded in 2008, Offaly-based Lumcloon is a developer of energy infrastructure. Projects listed on the company’s website include two Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) – one 100MW live project and a future planned 63MW project – in Shannonbridge; a 100MW BESS project in Luncloom; and a 275MW reserve gas-fired generator and energy storage system in Castlelost due to go live in October 2024.

Formerly known as SK E&C, SK Ecoplant is the construction subsidiary of the South Korean conglomerate SK Group, which also owns the likes of SK Telecom and SK Hynix. SK Ecoplant has partnered with Bloom Energy to develop fuel cell and hydrogen deployments.

Amid an ongoing moratorium on new grid connections around Dublin, around a dozen operators received authorization to be connected to the Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) pipeline.

However, the number of ’islanded’ data centers relying on gas isn’t likely to increase as last year Environment Minister Eamon Ryan instructed GNI not to provide any more connections to data centers that are going to rely exclusively on gas for power.

Since then, multiple operators have applied to build gas power plants at their campuses instead, with varying amounts of success.

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