University of Delaware terminates Data Center project

 An artist's conception of The Data Centers project (photo courtesy TDC)

An artist's conception of The Data Centers project (photo courtesy TDC)

The University of Delaware has killed the controversial plans to build a data center and power plant on its STAR campus in Newark.

“We have carefully examined The Data Centers’ plans, and have determined that they are not a good fit for the STAR Campus,” said UD President Patrick Harker in a statement issued Thursday morning.

With this decision, the long debate over construction of the facility and the accompanying 279-megawatt co-generation power plant comes to an end. 

“We have been impressed with the level of passion, input and discussion surrounding this project,” Harker said. “This is what makes a college campus exciting—students, faculty and community members are able to freely express themselves.”

Residents who live near the campus, along with environmental groups, opposed construction of a power plant so close to Newark neighborhoods.

The decision to end the deal comes after a report from the UD Working Group’s finding that the plans were not consistent with UD’s values.

“The emplacement of a fossil-fuel based facility of this size does not appear consistent with UD’s vision of a first-class science and technology campus or its Path to Prominence,” according to the report.

The group’s other findings include:

A data center would be advantageous to the STAR Campus, with the potential to provide research and internship opportunities, enhance the property infrastructure so as to attract other tenants; provide construction and permanent jobs and provide tax revenue for local schools and community.

Contemporary high-quality data centers use the existing grid or deploy a combination of the existing grid and renewable energy generation to meet their power needs. This approach appears to be advantageous on many grounds: reliability, economic and environmental. 

Relative to other fossil-fuel energy sources, the combined heat and power (CHP) facility TDC proposed is an efficient and viable transitional energy generation technology. However, its efficiency is predicated on being appropriately-sized, such that the recovered heat can be used or sold throughout the year as useful energy. Specifically with TDC’s plan, it was not clear that this would be the case, particularly in the non-summer months.  

The 279-megawatt co-generation facility that TDC proposed is significantly (at least two times) larger than any other on-site power generation facility known at data centers in the United States.

Significant generation of greenhouse gases with insufficient plans to capture and sequester carbon dioxide and the emission of other pollutants would have demonstrative and negative effects on UD’s commitments to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint.

Given the University’s commitment to reduced carbon emissions, and its strong reputation in renewable and carbon-free energy research, the emplacement of a fossil-fuel based facility of this size does not appear consistent with UD’s vision of a first-class science and technology campus or its Path to Prominence.

You can read the full report online at udel.edu.

 

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