More details offered on proposed data center-power plant project


mustdataMore details have been released on a proposed data center and power plant planned for the STAR Campus at the University of Delaware in Newark.

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.

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  1. I am in favor of the data center and power plant being proposed on the former Chrysler site. I was born and raised in Newark DE. and as a current resident who has witnessed the pain caused to families who have lost their homes due to job losses in the area, I think it would be foolish to oppose this rare opportunity to create hundreds of local, good paying jobs over objections from NIMBY’s because of misconceptions over a natural gas power plant. This was the site of a car plant that not only created much more noise than the proposed power plant would, but also used solvents, paints and many other environment damaging chemicals that had to be trucked in and out on a daily basis, along with many off-site produced parts, not to mention the carbon producing cars themselves. I live less than two miles from this site and I think this will be good for many residents and local businesses.

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