A California-based manufacturer of fuel cells has started building a Delaware facility it says will employ about 900 people, and help it meet growing demand for its products on the east coast.
Bloom Energy was officially welcomed to the state Monday with an elaborate groundbreaking ceremony in Newark at the site of the former Chrysler Assembly Plant.
The plant closed in 2008 and is being redeveloped into the University’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research campus. UD President Patrick Harker said the STAR campus will be a place “where the most creative, most innovative, the most industrious people would come together to reimagine what’s possible, to harness our shared knowledge, talent and experience and redesign the way America thinks and works.”
The start of construction comes nearly eleven months after Bloom was announced as the campus’ first major tenant.
“The process was hard, but the goal, frankly, was simple: we wanted to build here, again, hundreds of middle-class, good careers, and Bloom Energy was an obvious choice to recruit here to Delaware,” Gov. Jack Markell said.
During the past year, the state offered millions of dollars in direct subsidies to Bloom Energy, and regulators approved a surcharge on Delmarva Power electricity bills to fund some of Bloom’s ventures. Also, the General Assembly reclassified the fuel cell technology, which converts natural gas into electricity, as a renewable energy source.
Bloom Energy Principal Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer K.R. Sridhar said several states were interested in luring the company to the east coast. Sridhar said the responsive action taken by the governor, the General Assembly and the involvement of Delaware’s congressional delegation convinced Bloom that Delaware was the best place to locate.
“Delaware complements our California roots and strategically positions us to better serve our exploding customer base,” Sridhar added.
Bloom also announced new customers for its energy servers, which are known as “Bloom boxes.” Owens Corning, Urban Outfitters and Washington Gas are joining Delmarva Power and AT&T on the list of Bloom customers. Delmarva Power President Gary Stockbridge said the utility was searching for a source of clean, renewable and affordable energy that was also reliable. “This is one of the few contracts we have where it’s going to be stable, and [the cost to maintain the contract] actually goes down over time,” Stockbridge said.
The decades of auto manufacturing were also fondly remembered by Delaware State Chamber of Commerce President Jim Wolfe, who was plant manager when the Newark facility was making such popular vehicles as the Dodge Durango.
The Chrysler operation covered 3.3-million square feet, while Bloom will occupy about 200-thousand square feet.
“It’s a site that has great heritage,” Wolfe said.