A controversial data centre proposed at the foot of Clyde Damin New Zealand has been granted resource consent.
The Clyde Dam, New Zealand’s third-largest hydroelectric dam, is built on the Clutha River / Mata-Au near the town of Clyde, owned and operated by Contact Energy. This decision could open up the doors for cryptocurrency mining in Central Otago.
In a decision released recently, hearings commissioner Bob Nixon concluded Contact Energy’s application for a 0.65 ha two-lot subdivision, and land use consent for the construction of a data centre and associated facilities at 46 Fruitgrowers Rd, Earnscleugh, be approved, according to a report by Otago Daily Times.
The approval comes subject to standard regulatory and building conditions regarding subdivision, services and land use. In his decision, Nixon summarised the evidence presented at a hearing on February 18.
In his evidence, Landpro planner Matt Curran said the proposal consisted of the construction of eight containerised data centres, associated facilities and a noise mitigation wall along the eastern and southern boundaries of the site. The containers would each hold 368 servers.
At the time the application was lodged, a notice of requirement was issued by Aurora Energy for a substation beside the data centre to provide it with a direct connection to the local distribution network and for a new supply for Clyde from 2025. The data centre would be operated by a separate entity, Lake Parime, under a lease agreement with Contact.
Lake Parime is a privately owned UK digital infrastructure company connected to renewable energy sources for machine learning, modelling, data visualisations, with a particular focus on block chain and cryptocurrency mining. Contact Energy head of hydro generation Boyd Brinsdon said in evidence the reason the site was selected was because it was next to the Clyde power station reducing transmission and distribution losses.
No staff would be permanently based on the site but Lake Parime would employ a small number of specialised maintenance staff to manage the servers within the data centre. The data centre could operate when electricity demand was low, and scale back its operations and use of electricity when demand was high.
Data processing was not part of Contact Energy’s core business, but it would continue to hold the resource consents in its own name as applicant to ensure the data centre operated within the environmental parameters required by its resource consents, Brinsdon said. Post Covid-19, demand for energy consumption, especially in data centres have shot up exponentially.