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Apple Scraps $1 Billion Irish Data Center Over Planning Delays (reuters.com) 197

Apple ditched plans to build an 850 million euro ($1 billion) data center in Ireland because of delays in the approval process that have stalled the project for more than three years, the iPhone maker said on Thursday. From a report: Apple announced plans in February 2015 to build the facility in the rural western town of Athenry to take advantage of green energy sources nearby, but a series of planning appeals, chiefly from two individuals, delayed its approval. Ireland's High Court ruled in October that the data center could proceed, dismissing the appellants who then took their case to the country's Supreme Court.

Apple Scraps $1 Billion Irish Data Center Over Planning Delays

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  • by froggyjojodaddy ( 5025059 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:03AM (#56587622)
    ... this happening in the US. I don't know the specifics of the story but I'm sure those 2 individuals would have been steam rolled by now
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
      Yeah, I feel sorry for that small, rural town, missing out on about $1B for their economy, just because of two assholes.

      I'm guessing they won't be welcome in any pubs there for a long time to come.....

      • How does that translate to $1B for that towns economy?
        • by v1 ( 525388 )

          not all of it would go to the locals of course, but there's a huge initial influx from the construction, and an ongoing benefit in the form of maintenance/support of the facilities, permanent jobs, and a serious upgrade needed to support so many more local people.

          I'm betting Ireland is going to look at this as a "lesson" on what can happen to cause them to lose out on such a big opportunity, and to draft measures and responses in place for the next time opportunity comes knocking, to make sure someone opens

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I don't think you know what a data center is. It doesn't create many jobs. The construction is just companies bringing in crews and when it is done they leave. The only effect on the locals is that they now have a big ugly data center and their utility rates probably go up. My guess the "green energy" source that Apple was going to use was hydro, which isn't "green" at all.
            • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @11:02AM (#56588048) Homepage

              My guess is that the "green" energy is legitimizing their old tax shelter.

            • While true that there are not many permanent jobs in a datacenter, what do you mean by energy rates going up and "ugly" data center? At best the datacenter is a non-descript building just like any other building. With Apple specifically it says in the title that they were attracted by the abundant green energy nearby. Combined with Apple's zero footprint policies, it's unlikely that the locals might see their energy rates go down as Apple will sell back excess energy.
              • Have you guys ever seen a datacenter? "Nondescript" is one word for them. Who would want that in their town?
                • Have you guys ever seen a datacenter? "Nondescript" is one word for them. Who would want that in their town?

                  Yes I have. Here is Apple's datacenter in North Carolina. [datacenterknowledge.com] It looks like a one-story building [google.com] in the middle of nowhere that you can't really see from the road.

          • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:26AM (#56587768) Homepage Journal
            Maybe in America where every last little scrap of money is everything this would be a huge lesson But I imagine that a small Irish town would rather NOT have those scraps of money (most of which will go to the architects and building contractors) and preserve their way of life. Unlike in the US, not every town is thrilled at the idea of becoming a strip mall for tech workers to get their ramen and dry cleaning and who bring the self-centered, clueless phone gazing monoculture culture of elitism and snobbery with them So yes, I think Apple got the hint that this community and the PEOPLE in it had serious reservations and some even colder feet, though they were tempted by the prospects, I think both parties are much better off with this deal being called off
            • by jm007 ( 746228 )
              that would certainly be more noble and a testament to the locals and their resistance to 'progress' as others define it

              but is that what happening here?
            • What tech workers? A data center like this would likely only employ 100 people. And not all those would be tech workers.
            • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:40AM (#56587860) Journal

              I think both parties are much better off with this deal being called off

              Elitism in a nutshell. You think you know something you know nothing about, and are all the more happy to tell people your view of the world is correct, without any indication you are right. I mean, you could be right, or you could let those involved decide for themselves.

              This case was an abuse of the legals system, where two people (elistists like yourself) insist they know better than everyone else. Tyranny by any other name.

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:54AM (#56587990) Homepage Journal

                By "abuse" you mean "exercising their legal rights as designed", yeah?

                • Using a rubber mallet on your head is using a rubber mallet as designed. Hitting something. And while not as intended, nothing hitting your head intentionally is good, ever, especially for you.

                  That even one person thinks so raises the obvious question, 'why?' This is the question raised when someone opposes a new hydro dam, or an office building, or even an additional lane on the freeway. If you delay the project sufficiently, those who prefer to do business with partners will end up going way, leaving a re

              • by skam240 ( 789197 )

                I love how you redicule some one for coming to a conclusion on something they know nothing about and then in the same post come to a conclusion about what happened.

                Do you have some hidden insights that the above poster doesnt or are you just a hypocrite?

                As far as I can tell why those planning appeals took place aren't public knowledge (at least I didn't see anything on a quick search). Those two people could have had perfectly legitimate reasons to file their appeals.

                The only elitism I seem to see here is y

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          Probably to a loss, the way these Monster-Corps have paid taxes in the past.

      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:14AM (#56587684)

        It's not $1B to the local economy, it's a handful of medium pay jobs after the construction is complete, and because datacenters are so specialized the construction is usually handled by a firm that does nothing but plan and build them so you don't even get temporary construction jobs. From a land and resource usage perspective a datacenter is probably one of the worst candidates.

        • Horseshit. Datacenter creation involves a lot of concrete work, a lot of electrical installs, bathroom fixtures, lighting, offices, carpet, doors, loading docks, asphalt in the drive ways and parking lot, etc etc etc.

          The only thing that will probably be custom and contractors flown in is for the low-volt and fiber networks. Everything else will have to be built to local building codes and inspected by the local authority, whom the local contractors have working relationships with.

          Then there is the maintenan

          • I don't think you know what a data center is. Go visit one. There are plenty in Northern Virginia. A typical data center employs about 100 people.
            • by thomn8r ( 635504 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:48AM (#56587924)
              A typical data center employs about 100 people.

              If that. The last data center I worked at belonged to a major telco; two huge warehouse-style buildings with a multitude of different data centers within them. The most people I saw on-site at any one time was about 20.

              • I was including contract/maintenance workers, but you are right the numbers are very low.
              • by afidel ( 530433 )

                Yup, was a customer of a major AT&T center in Ashburn, VA, ~400k square feet and no more than 6 people including the security guard there most of the time. That place might have had 20-30 employees total for all 3 shifts. The next center we moved to in Columbus was about 100k square feet and had like 10 employees total onsite for all 3 shifts.

          • The only thing that will probably be custom and contractors flown in is for the low-volt and fiber networks. Everything else will have to be built to local building codes and inspected by the local authority, whom the local contractors have working relationships with.

            Yes I'm sure the local economy (made up of approximately 4000 people in total) will be used for all that. It certainly won't be some construction firm bringing in labour from afar to do that construction, because only that town of 4000 people know how to build a datacentre according to code.

      • I dunno. Perhaps the residents will actually be delighted that they get to stay a small, rural town, rather than a data centre annex.

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

          Indeed. It would no doubt have been built on farmland with the local farmers - of thich there will be many - having their land compulsory purchased. All they'd see out of it is reduced income and more traffic.

          • by lgw ( 121541 )

            It would no doubt have been built on farmland with the local farmers - of thich there will be many - having their land compulsory purchased

            Why would you imagine "compulsory purchased"? It's a data center - a large building - not an airport. Apple has billions stuck in Ireland right now, and Irish farm land isn't Manhattan. Apple would have no problem finding one farmer to sell them some land.

            All they'd see out of it is reduced income and more traffic.

            Once it's complete, it's (a few) more jobs in the local economy, which then have a multiplied effect for more support jobs (creating a tech job in the first world creates an extra 1.6 or so "neighborhood" jobs, closer to 10x in places like India). A fe

            • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

              "Apple would have no problem finding one farmer to sell them some land."

              Sure, in the whole of Ireland, but they didn't want to just build anywhere.

              "A few hundred extra jobs (heck, even a few dozen) is a meaningful boost to a rural economy."

              Only if you have a few hundred people sitting around on the dole there. Otherwise they'll just be imported workers. Sure, the shops will get more cash, but they'll use up scarce services too.

              • by lgw ( 121541 )

                Ah, the "fixed sized pie" argument: new workers in an area just means others get less, because the economy can't possibly grow. Horseshit, of course.

          • Indeed. It would no doubt have been built on farmland with the local farmers - of thich there will be many - having their land compulsory purchased. All they'd see out of it is reduced income and more traffic.

            It was to have been built in this forest area adjacent to the golf club. https://www.google.com/maps/@53.28715,-8.8337841,2827m/data=!3m1!1e3 [google.com]

        • I dunno, perhaps instead of living in a dying town, they would have liked the opportunity to have a few more jobs available to the townsfolk.

          But neither of us know, and are basically clueless. How about the people there get to decide, rather than have some bureaucratic nightmare, and a few internet trolls at /. dictate how they are supposed to be.

          • The people there DID decide. That is what the approval process is for. Are individuals not allowed to have a voice in what corporations do? Ridiculous.
      • Yeah, I feel sorry for that small, rural town, missing out on about $1B for their economy, just because of two assholes.

        Why do you assume that money would go predominately to the local economy? Obviously they would capture some of it but it's unclear how much. Plus having a large company come in and dominate the local economy is the very definition of a two edged sword. It can bring a lot of positive economic benefits but it also makes the local economy beholden to that one company and can absolutely ruin the local economy if/when they leave.

      • Of course if they wanted to build it next to your house you'd be completely happy with the idea.

        Because the needs of the many should overrule the rights of a few individuals, right?

        • Of course if they wanted to build it next to your house you'd be completely happy with the idea.

          One house near me is full of white trash who make everyone else on the street miserable.
          Another has a dog that is allowed to bark at all houses of the day and night.
          Another is running some kind of auto shop out of his garage and makes noise all day and night.

          I'd happily smile if Apple announced it is building a data center (or anything else) in any of those locations...or anywhere else near my house.

        • Of course if they wanted to build it next to your house you'd be completely happy with the idea.

          I live in a residential area. They can't build it next to my house. They couldn't get approval to do that.

          The difference is, Apple GOT approval, so they met all the zoning and environmental requirements.

          If you live in a light industrial or commercially zoned area, then you are begging for your neighbor to be a light industry or commercial operation. Pretending that nobody can put a new building into such a zone because you live there is just patently stupid.

      • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

        .

        I'm guessing they won't be welcome in any pubs there for a long time to come.....

        You are working on the assumption that people in the area actually wanted the added traffic, pollution, destruction of a perhaps pleasant environment and so on.

        Do people in the US actually give a s**t about their quality of life other than money? I would be interested what the local opinion is. Don't assume...

      • This isn't the first time some yokel has used planning laws and bent the ears of Irish politicians to stop a development project that would help the Irish economy. This foreign bloke killed an Irish wind farm because he didn't like the looks of it and claimed it would harm some freshwater mussel. [independent.ie] Then this same daft American claimed that "climate change" would wash his land into the see so he tries to erect a damn sea wall. The Irish got the last laugh though. It seems that there's this tiny endangered Iris

        • How does an Apple data center help the Irish economy? Would you want a data center in YOUR town? I am sorry so many of you think that planning laws and individual voices are not important. You guys would make excellent servants. All hail the Corporation!
      • by NicknameUnavailable ( 4134147 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @11:23AM (#56588226)

        Yeah, I feel sorry for that small, rural town, missing out on about $1B for their economy, just because of two assholes.

        Large companies don't build in small towns (especially in Ireland, of all places) to provide anything of substance to the local population. They do it because they can bribe a couple councilmen for zero tax burdens and in Ireland especially they do it because they already have deals to avoid most US and EU taxes. Of that $1b in costs the town might see a few thousand dollars, trickled down from their mayor and councilmen.

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        Yeah, I feel sorry for that small, rural town, missing out on about $1B for their economy, just because of two assholes.

        I'm guessing they won't be welcome in any pubs there for a long time to come.....

        Or you know, maybe companies should locate industrial scale facilities in cities.

        Despite the misnomer a "server farm" is not actually a farm.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        These two "assholes" obviously have a case, or it would have stopped far earlier. Apple is either hiding information of doing something potentially harmful.

    • The laws let people do this, whether it's an Apple data center, a nuclear power plant or wind generators. You can't pick and choose which the law applies to.
    • Unfortunately it can and it does.

      If you don't want to read the link, George Lucas said, I want to build a Start Wars Museum in Chicago! I will pay for it out of my personal money. Everyone loved the idea (many didn't like the design) except a group Friends of the Park, that wants to maintain the lake shore property as mostly green space.

      They complained, they sued, and appealed and Lucas said, forget it, I am out.

      Not the same as a data center, but similar.

      http://www.chicagotribune.com/... [chicagotribune.com]

      • How is that "unfortunate"? What is the benefit for building a Star Wars museum on public green space? Just so George Lucas can stroke his ego a bit more? I am glad you guys aren't city planners.
        • Every city needs a 'Star Wars Museum'!

          Paris has lots of mostly empty buildings. They should just push aside the clutter and let Lucas use the Louvre.

        • How is that "unfortunate"? What is the benefit for building a Star Wars museum on public green space?

          1. It wasn't 'green space'. It was a parking lot next to Soldier Field. Converting a parking lot into a museum is a huge benefit to the community.

          1a. A huge side-effect benefit may be that it convinces more people to use public transit to get to Soldier Field and/or the new Museum, pumping money into the public transit system and reducing the use of fossil fuels.

          2. The Tribune story refers to "4000 construction jobs". Four thousand construction jobs are a benefit to the community. These will be mostly we

    • Mod thus +1 Funny, please.

      NIMBY seems to have been invented in the USA. 'Seems' being the operative word, but it has been raised to a fine art here. California is the thought leader in this, and this is standard practice for several scenarios, not just nuclear power but even corporate siting.

      Really, this is SOP in the USA for many projects.

      • Yeah, it is ridiculous that people don't want data centers or nuclear power plants sited in their neighborhood. Corporations should be allowed to put anything wherever they want.
    • If the datacenter was going to put too much strain on the local power infrastructure then I can imagine other challenges needing to be worked out, like upgrading the power generation facilities. On the other hand if it was going to rely on its own power generation facilities, then I am sure the barrier would be lower.

    • Yep, that's exactly what I thought when I read the headline. Apple found a 'face-saving' way to get out of the deal without coming across as total jerks due to the real reason being the newly less than ideal tax situation. Next data center location Cyprus...
    • The fact that they moved the datacenter project to Denmark, where the business tax rate it 24.5%, much higher the Irelands 12.5% suggests your theory is lacking.

      • The fact that they moved the datacenter project to Denmark, where the business tax rate it 24.5%, much higher the Irelands 12.5% suggests your theory is lacking.

        Or it suggests you might have a binary view of the factors that influence their data center location decisions. Before the EU crackdown Apple was paying essentially 0% corporate tax, which allowed them to compensate for potentially higher operating costs and lower power-grid reliability in Ireland vs the center they already had in Denmark [they
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:05AM (#56587636)
    TFA article tells you crap about the complaints. Here's a much better article:
    http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/content-tracks/design-build/apples-irish-data-center-faces-new-hearing/96069.fullarticle

    "...objectors raise fears that it would flood golf course, and make inordinate demands on Ireland&rsquo;s power grid."

    "The full proposal would reduce the habitat of bats and badgers, say some objections, and the Bord has also received a complaint from Athenry Golf Club, 1km away from the site. 'Our primary concern is the totality of the proposed development, especially the extent of the proposed masterplan, and the potential this has to alter the hydrology of the local area and potentially increase the frequency and duration of flooding already experienced at the golf club,' says the golf club&rsquo;s appeal"
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @10:42AM (#56587878) Journal

    I'd say that the recognition that the EU sees Apple as a cow from which many Euros can be milked might have more to do with this.

    There are LOTS of places they could build this.

    • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

      There are LOTS of places they could build this.

      I come from one of the places that hast the highest % of "renewable energy" creation. The last figure I have is 104% of actual use and rising. (Orkney is VERY windy and we like wind turbines.) I doubt Apple would consider a datacentre up here but that's fine. Construction of these things makes a mess but employs few locals in the process. It leaves a large ugly blob that doesn't help the place look good and employs next to nobody afterwards,

      I would be surprised if many people there are that upset. If

  • Could it?

  • by ledow ( 319597 )

    Erm..

    Well, a rural town with only 3,950 people in it? Yeah a datacentre is going to destroy that overnight.

    Sure, someone may decide that's necessary, but it's by no means a "Oh, my god, why are they saying no!?" reaction, surely? I'd object if I lived in a town of only 4000 people and Apple wanted to install a huge feck-off datacenter with presumably hundreds or thousands of people there on my doorstep.

    What was the appeal on the grounds of?

    https://www.rte.ie/news/2018/0... [www.rte.ie]

    Converting plans for a single-dat

  • From a local .. (Score:5, Informative)

    by wosmo ( 854535 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:27PM (#56588824)

    So, this is literally 5 minutes down the road from me (when the traffic's good) ..

    This isn't a popular decision here. I don't personally know anyone who had any objections at all - although we do note one of the people objecting resides on the other side of the country.

    On the other hand, it's not the end of the world either. Once they're operational, datacenters don't employ anywhere near as many people as you'd think. Especially when they're single-tenant and managed off-site. And as small and rural as Athenry sounds (and looks), it's turning into a commuter town anyway. The city would be considered a very reasonable commute by American standards. (I have colleagues that can get in in 10-15 minutes - but sometimes take an hour to get home. Traffic is our major problem here, and this site would have little impact on it.)

    Someone mentioned taxes. No-one's here is under any illusion that the topics are related. Denmark is not exactly a tax haven, and the two sites were announced at the same time. This is a stupid process that's been dragging out years longer than it should have, and ground to a halt enough times that the end was inevitable.

    Someone else mentioned renewables. It's entirely wind here. We don't have a lot of scope for hydro; it's just too flat to support it. We do have a lot of scope for tidal, but little willingness to tamper with the picturesque coastlines when wind is so very plentiful here.

    All in all, this is just a failure of process. Not the planning process itself, but the appeals process shouldn't be able to drag out so long as to destroy an opportunity. There should be a limit to how many appeals you can lose, otherwise the process stops being a battle of facts, and simply a battle of stubbornness.

    I mean, imagine if you were trying to build a home - and someone a few hundred miles away objected to it. And objected, and objected. And lost every time, but was able to continue objecting until the build was no longer feasible. You'd be asking where the line is too. People should be able to object, and those objections should be able to hold some weight - I think it's fantastic that the common man can actually win against someone the size of Apple. But if the developer wins, that should mean something too.

  • And decided to walk rather than borrow some euros for a data center they don't need yet...

    Apple will place the first tranche of its €13 billion Irish tax bill in an escrow account next month following the signing of a legal agreement between the Government and the US tech giant.
    ... [irishtimes.com]

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