A data center and co-generation plant might be coming to Delaware after all. The Middletown Town Council has unanimously approved plans for a data center and natural gas power plant, according to local news reports.
That feeling of Déjà vu is due to a previous failed data center and co-gen project in Delaware from The Data Centers LLC. The Middletown project is unrelated, with different owners, but might have to overcome the bad blood lingering from the unrelated project.
Steve Lewandowski of Cabe Associates, project manager for land owner and developer Mautom LLC, confirmed the ownership of the project is not the same at a Town Council meeting in June.
The Data Centers project was proposed at the University of Delaware's science and technology campus. Like TDC's project, the Mautom one has its opponents, albeit on a much smaller scale. The deciding factor between the projects was the overall scope and the importance of the power plant piece to the project's revenue.
The Middletown project is for a $250 million, 40 MW data center and a 52.5 MW power plant. TDC'' proposed project was for a $1.3 billion, 280 MW power plant, which opponents argued was way more than a data center needed, and therefore was a power plant in the guise of a data center co-gen facility.
TDC planned to sell excess power back to the grid, and the University of Delaware decided this piece of the project was too central. Delaware Online reported that the Middletown plant would also return power to the grid via the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, however, this is not central to the project’s business model.
Opponents of the TDC project mobilized, and the university put the final nail in the coffin by terminating the developer's land lease last year. TDC briefly shopped the project around to other states but later got bogged down in multiple lawsuits.
The Middletown project isn't in the clear yet, although the council's approval is a big step forward. Opponents argue the power plant will add air pollution. Two petitions opposing the project gathered 530 signatures total, reported local media. However, the project has more supporters than the previous one, who say it will bring much needed business to the town.
Given the failure of the previous attempt, the new developer is proactively being transparent and offering experts to make sure the proposal clears all code requirements.
A data center and co-gen plant is a fundamentally sound idea, but a largely uncharted territory. While data centers are often met with open arms due to the positive economic effects, TDC's experience showed that adding an unusual power source to the mix can kill a data center project.