Keeping the lights on as the grid stutters will become an all-consuming challenge

Chris Horn: Renewable energy is all very well, but how far will the wind carry us?

As the climate changes, we may be in the transition away from relatively steady winds to long periods of calm

As the climate changes, we may be in the transition away from relatively steady winds to long periods of calm

It has taken the pandemic for the value of cloud computing to be widely understood. Virtual conference calls, routine office tasks and group collaboration tools can be productive from anywhere, provided that there is a half-decent internet connection. The entire point of cloud computing is that data and computing power can be delivered on demand, in any place and at any time. The actual location of the server computers involved relative to those who are using them is unimportant, as long as there is sufficient bandwidth available to connect them. Like electricity, computing power is available whenever and wherever you need it, regardless of where the “generating station” is located.

Except that cloud computing prodigiously consumes electric power. Individual chips continue to need ever less electrical power to deliver even more computing, but are delicate when racked together by the tens of thousands into a data centre. Temperature, dew point and humidity must be carefully regulated, sometimes needing more power to moderate the ambient operating environment than that used directly for the computing itself. The power requirement of an average single data centre is extraordinary, at 50-60 megawatts, matching for example the energy consumption of a small city such as Kilkenny. Eirgrid has already agreed to connect data centres with a total nationwide requirement of 1,800MW of electric power, and has a backlog of applications totalling a further 2,000MW.

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