5G ‘data farm’ for self-driving cars mooted for 120 acre County Limerick site

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

Tom Neville TD: Data centre ‘in line with tech advancements’

Tom Neville TD: Data centre ‘in line with tech advancements’

A GREENFIELDS ‘industrial park’ site of over 120 acres has been lying idle on the Shannon Estuary for several decades, despite the fact that its owner has said it is “actively exploring opportunities for it” — and one local TD is suggesting a “data farm” be located the site.

Askeaton Industrial Park is a mostly undeveloped site which once held the promise of jobs, but the Shannon Group-owned property is now used solely for grazing.

The park was owned by Shannon Properties before the organisation’s consolidation under Shannon Group in 2014.

Local FG TD Tom Neville is suggesting that the possibility of a major data centre should be explored, after plans for one in Athenry were scrapped by Apple.

The futuristic idea would be in line with technological advances, he said, as internet communications and the latest self-driving cars require vast 5G data farms in order to work.

“The business park has been empty for years, and like any product, if you don’t segment your market and actually tailor your product to a specific market, it’s a lot more difficult to sell,” said Mr Neville.

“It’s identifying that niche. After what happened in Athenry, I was suggesting that we could explore the avenue of reclassifying the likes of the Askeaton Business Park for use as a data centre.

“It’s a suggestion. That’s in light of what’s happening in the global economy, and the movement towards 5G communications, which is and will be the basis of automated driving,” he added.

“For automated driving, you will need massive data centres of hundreds of acres. And for a data centre to work, you need the technical infrastructure available. All the main infrastructural IT companies’ headquarters are based in Ireland, such as Dell and Google, and they will be providing the actual hardware that will be going into the data centres.

“We have a good moderate climate in which we don’t get hurricanes, and we have access to the Shannon for clean water as well. We have the building of the Limerick to Foynes motorway, and the airport right beside it. It should be tailored towards a particular industry,” said the TD.

“That would give jobs around technology, but also security, food services, etcetera,” he added, “I would like to see that explored.”

FF Cllr Kevin Sheahan plans to formally invite a representative from Shannon Group to attend a council meeting, saying “we have a right as taxpayers to know”.

“I have been a councillor almost 30 years and there is a book in the excuses we have gotten over the years… At the moment I firmly believe that it is being used as an asset to present a good set of figures in a balance sheet situation,” he said.

“There is natural gas nearby, water supply, electricity supply, an EPA waste licence. And with all of these assets, they are making no effort to market this as a suitable location for industrial development.

“I believe it is all about the marketing. I would like the person who is responsible for marketing it to come out and tell me that I’m incorrect in my assessment,” said Cllr Sheahan.