West Chester, Pa.-based The Data Centers LLC wants to build the 900, 000-square-foot project on a portion of the campus that once housed the Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant. The site would employ 290. Ground could be broken for the project this fall. No price tag has been released, although a gas-fired power plant of similar size in Dover will be built at a cost of around $300 million and would employ 300 during construction.
Brian J. Honish, vice-president of business development/sales for The Data Centers, says the company has a lead investor and plans to move forward on air quality and other permits with the goal of breaking ground in October. He said the air permits will be a key to the project.
Honish says the plant represents a new approach toward data centers that use large amounts of electricity to power servers and related equipment and generate large amounts of heat.
The center can also guarantee that power will not go down without the need for diesel or other back-ups. A small diesel engine would be used for life support systems, such as elevators, in the event of a catastrophic failure.
By producing electricity onsite and using futures markets to lock in costs, the Newark site will be able to guarantee power prices for a number of years. That will provide a competitive advantage, Honish said.
The power plant will burn natural gas and generate 248 megawatts of electricity. That is well in excess of the requirements of the plant.
The Data Centers can sell that excess electrical power, according to Honish. The company does not have an agreement with Delaware Municipal Electric Corp., which supplies power for Newark’s city owned electric utility.
Honish said it is too early to offer details on how the plant would be powered. However, he noted that servers and other equipment in data centers produce a large amount of heat.
The heat could be used as part of the process of producing electricity at the site.
The center would release carbon dioxide into the air, but Honish said the company is working on technology that would capture the CO2 to make the site as environmentally friendly as possible.
Although the company studied the technology, it will not use the Bloom fuel cell energy servers that will be built elsewhere at the STAR site. Honish said the Bloom technology is not able to meet the requirements of the plant. The CEO of The Data Centers has been working for a decade on developing the concept of a combined power plant and data center, Honish said.
The data center industry is seeing growing demand as businesses move to what is widely known as “the cloud.” Companies of various sizes, according to Honish, have moved from a bank of servers at headquarters or other sites to more than one data center to ensure that outages or power failures do not shut down critical operations.
Technology companies, like Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google, build their own data centers and have been working to come up with ways to power the sites. Apple is using a combination of solar power and Bloom servers at a massive data center in North Carolina.
In the commercial real estate industry, data centers are the one area that is not experiencing soft demand, Honish said.
The company is seeking $7.5 million from the state for infrastructure improvements at the site, including a natural gas line that would fuel the plant.