Going Off The Grid: Delaware Data Center Will Generate its Own Power

There’s a major project brewing in Delaware, with a group called The Data Centers LLC (TDC) planning a sizeable data center near Newark. TDC says it is planning to invest more than $1 billion in the project, with construction alone for the first two phases expected to be around $400 million. The group wants to construct approximately 900,000 square feet of space.

The massive project will also feature a large on-site energy component. The facility will draw no electricity from the grid; instead, the plan is to sell power back to the grid.

This means added redundancy will be built into the project. The plant consists of a proprietary configuration of natural gas turbines, steam turbines and gas engines, with two independent natural gas supply lines on site to provide the reliability to deliver uninterrupted, fault tolerant power to the data center.

Operating as a Grid-Free Island

“The patent-pending design combines best-in-class data center energy efficiencies with the efficiencies of on-site cogeneration and tri-generation plants that can operate as an island without relying on the electrical grid as a backup,” writes Bruce Myatt, CTO of The Data Centers, in a summary of the project. “That means that critical power generation with gas turbines, steam turbines, and adsorption chillers back up one another to power and cool the data center while excess power can be supplied to the grid to support demand response requirements. The facility will secure long-term gas contracts to keep operating costs low and competitive.”

TDC has signed a lease with the University of Delaware to occupy a site on the STAR Campus and has lined up over half of the construction funding with investment bankers. The STAR campus is a 272-acre property purchased by the University of Delaware from Chrysler during is bankruptcy back in 2009. TDC will lease 43 acres, and will be the second tenant there, next door to Bloom Energy, which makes solid-oxide fuel cells.

Three tenants have already agreed to occupy space at the TDC facility when the site is operational in late 2014, including the University of Delaware. Opportunities exist for additional tenants to reserve space in the first phase of the facility as well.

Project Boosted by Infrastructure Grant

According to TDC CEO Gene Kern, the site will employ approximately 370 full time employees (FTE) and is expected to attract “over 90 other workers from our tenants, vendors, consultants, and our tenants’ tenants.” The company has begun discussing its plans in recent weeks. Kern is a veteran IT infrastructure consultant and cofounder of WAKE Technology Services. The TDC team also include President and COO Robert Krizman, previously a senior VP at Jones Lang LaSalle, and Myatt, who is familiar to many in the industry as a co-founder of the Critical Facilities Round Table.

There’s a lot to like about Delaware, according to TDC. State officials have approved a $7.5 million infrastructure grant, with the usual caveats, including meeting certain conditions and documentation that state aid will be spent on infrastructure. State funds will help pay for bringing natural gas and water service to the site, with TDC planning to run two new, dedicated gas lines through Eastern Shore Natural Gas. Part of the $7.5 million grant will go towards building a new electrical substation near the building, which the city will own.

There’s a symbiotic relationship forming here, where TDC will bring jobs, strengthen the power infrastructure. making service more reliable in the southern part of Newark, and possibly lead to lower power costs for local residents. TDC will also lay down fiber, in addition to its secure lines, to help the university attract future tenants. Then there’s the taxes – the size of the project means that TDC will pay a combined $20 million in property taxes to the city, New Castle County, and the Christina School District

With its high reliability design and managed services capabilities, TDC says the data center has the potential to be an ideal location for high-performance computing and cloud computing operations.

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About the Author

Jason Verge is an Editor/Industry Analyst on the Data Center Knowledge team with a strong background in the data center and Web hosting industries. In the past he’s covered all things Internet Infrastructure, including cloud (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), mass market hosting, managed hosting, enterprise IT spending trends and M&A. He writes about a range of topics at DCK, with an emphasis on cloud hosting.

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  1. Carol Robbins

    You have been remiss in that you forgot about the thousands of residents in the southern part of Newark who want NO PARTS of your grand plan in ruining our property values, making our lives a living hell with the noise, pollution and God knows what else! Your greed and ambition will destroy lives! We want no part of this plan. You and the UDE know what you can do with your power plant!

  2. Dean Kim

    I completely agree with Carol!! Go ahead with your plans - just remember - Karma is a bitch...

  3. Jamie Magee

    $20 million in property taxes? The land is owned by Univ. of Delaware, so I believe that's $0 in property taxes. Also, the proposed data center is not 900,000 square feet, but 192,000 square feet. I think 900,000 refers to the entire complex including 279 megawatt power plant, large enough to power 4 times the usage of the University and City of Newark combined. And the jobs are claimed by TDC as being 290 full time direct hires, which really is 219 when one corrects their weekend-only shifts to equivalent full time jobs. The $46,500 avg salary means most will be below the living wage for 1 adult + 1 child in that county. And their data-center only jobs for some reason are proposed at SIX times the headcount of similar sized data center staffing per square foot at Yahoo, Microsoft, Intuit, and Ask.com. Everything about jobs and tax revenue to the surrounding communities seems grossly inflated, but then again the promise of 'jobs' is what gets support in a State with the worst employment stats within 1000 miles. TDC is under no commitment to actually hire any number of people; it's all their marketing.

  4. Mrs. R

    What they didn't tell you is that that great big beautiful power plant will be within hundreds of yards of people's houses! Gene Kern knows this yet insists he only wants to be a good neighbor! Who cares about the pollution he will spit out - just so he lives his dream!