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The social media company, Facebook, plans to build a new $224.7 million (€200m) data center in County Meath.

An application for planning consent for a new data center in County Meath has been submitted by Facebook on Monday. This will be its second site in Europe.

The application represents Facebook’s further interest in investing in Ireland, which has been home to Facebook’s European Headquarters since 2007. If approved, the center will help support thousands of high-skilled jobs in the region and millions of euros in economic impact.

Facebook has a significant and growing presence in Ireland, having recently moved to larger headquarters in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock. Facebook Dublin is already home to over 900 Facebook employees and the proposed data center in County Meath would be the next step of further investment and job creation in Ireland.

As more people around the world become connected using digital services, the infrastructure that powers the web is becoming ever more critical. From finding a holiday photo to send to a friend, messaging a colleague, reading the news or watching a video posted by a rugby star – data centers are the invisible infrastructure that make digital communication possible.

In 2011 Facebook built an innovative data center in Prineville, Oregon, which was more environmentally friendly and efficient to run than conventional data centers. Having opened the center, Facebook launched the Open Compute Project to open source what they learned, helping to increase efficiency in data center design across the industry. Four years on, Facebook is now a leader in building advanced and energy efficient data centers.

The proposed location of the data center, in an industrially zoned part of Clonee, County Meath, is intended to draw on local renewable energy supplies, access to fiber web connections, strong partnerships with the local community, and a large pool of local talent for construction and operational roles. Similar investments by Facebook have typically led to economic impact in the order of hundreds of millions of Euros, with thousands of jobs supported.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton TD, who has held discussions with senior Facebook executives in recent weeks to discuss this project, said: “We have specifically targeted data centers as part of our Action Plan for Jobs – this is an area particularly well suited to our climate and infrastructure, and holds the capacity to bring much-needed jobs and investment to regions where jobs are not growing as quickly. We have seen some major successes in this sector in recent years, and the announcement by Facebook that it is expanding its already significant investment in Dublin with this project in Clonee is a huge boost for Meath and the whole country. It is difficult to overstate the impact, in terms of jobs and economic activity this will have on the local area”.

Damien English TD, Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation, who has been involved in discussions on this project, said: “As a Meath Minister, I am delighted to welcome this huge announcement in our county by one of the biggest companies in the world. Based on similar investments elsewhere by Facebook, this has the capacity to create jobs and bring investment. In the past 4 years we have replaced all the jobs that were lost in Meath in companies supported by my Department – the announcement is the start of an exciting new phase of jobs growth for Co Meath”.

If approved, Clonee will become Facebook’s second European data center. The first, in Lulea, Sweden, utilizes hydropower to generate energy. Research by Boston Consulting Group shows the siting of the Lulea data center has since resulted in an estimated $416 million (€370m) of economic benefits in Sweden.

Rachel Peterson, Facebook, said: “Ireland has been a home for Facebook since 2007 and the planning application demonstrates our continued interest to invest in Ireland. We hope to build an innovative, environmentally friendly data center that will help us continue to connect people in Ireland and around the world – while supporting local job creation and Ireland’s successful technology economy. We look forward to continuing our conversations with the Clonee community in coming weeks.”

Martin Shanahan, Chief Executive of IDA Ireland said: `Facebook’s existing relationship with Ireland is extremely strong and extensive in scope, but the news that the company wants to build its second European data center in a regional location such as Meath will cement the relationship even further. IDA has been working with the company on its plans and we believe this project has the potential to deliver significant economic impact locally and regionally’.’