UD's STAR Campus passed on $1.8B data center project: what to know - Technical.ly Delaware

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Jul. 14, 2014 7:00 am

UD’s STAR Campus passed on $1.8B data center project: what to know

After a months-long committee investigation, the University of Delaware has terminated its lease with The Data Centers LLC for plans to build a $1.8 billion data center and power plant. Here's why, and what's next.
Rendering of the proposed STAR Campus project from The Data Centers LLC, prepared for a Sept. 2013 information session.

Rendering of the proposed STAR Campus project from The Data Centers LLC, prepared for a Sept. 2013 information session.

(Image Courtesy of The Data Centers)

After a months-long committee investigation, the University of Delaware has terminated its lease with The Data Centers LLC for its plans to develop a more than $1.8 billion data center and natural gas power plant to fuel it, citing the environmental concerns that had been the focus of activist groups.

The facility was planned to be an anchor of the school’s 271-acre Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus that UD executives are hyping as a foundation of the college’s future. A UD research group, made up of faculty and administration officials, made the recommendation to pass on the plan, primarily because of the 279-megawatt energy source, which the UD report called at least two times larger than any other similar facility for any other data center in the country.

The no-vote is about this specific project, not a willingness to focus on the jobs impact of STAR, UD President Patrick Harker has tried to make clear. That’s because, following years of planning, the project had won support from Gov. Jack Markell and other prominent economic development groups who billed this effort as a tidy replacement for the 2007 closings of the Newark Chrysler and Avon plants.

Download the full UD working group report here [PDF] or read it online here. The executive summary is here. Find Newark city government documents about the project here.

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Here is what you need to know:

  • WHAT: The project was controversial because there were conflicting and prominent advocate groups — Gov. Jack Markell, Newark city council and other economic development groups boasted the potential jobs impact, while green groups and some vocal residents were concerned about the environmental concerns. This was seen as a high-profile test for the future of UD and its much-prized STAR Campus.
  • WHO: The Data Centers (TDC), a small, private West Chester, Pa.-based business; Markell and a gaggle of economic development leaders; UD and its 271-acre STAR Campus led by Harker.
  • NEXT?: STAR still wants to host a data center of some kind, but one with a more sustainable energy source, according to the UD report. TDC could take this or a pared down project elsewhere in Delaware, as Markell and Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin have supported.

The process of resident feedback, the Newark city, TDC and Markell positions and the environmental concerns surrounding the project have been reported in detail by Delaware Business Daily here. Technical.ly Delaware sent a weekend email to the TDC team and will update with any comment in this space.

Find additional reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer here and a lengthy piece from the News Journal here.

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