For a year, the townsfolk of Middletown have been stoking the fires of dissent over a power plant to fuel a new data center
Cirrus Delaware has been waiting a year for permission to build a data center and power plant in the US town of Middletown, Delaware. Despite the local council being in favour of the development, a strong contingent of townsfolk have raised concerns, with arguments, accusations and even insults being thrown around at numerous meetings and street demonstrations.
DatacenterDynamics first highlighted the troublesome case of the Middletown Technology Center in June last year, two months after Cirrus made the application. By August, the town council unanimously approved the site plan for a 228,000 sq ft (21,000 sq m) data center with 40MW of capacity accompanied by a 52.5 MW natural gas driven generation plant.
Far from being an end to the matter, the council decision was still subject to public approval. The need for the power plant has since become the main issue as it will be near to the centre of the town and “less than one mile from several schools, daycare centres and senior citizens communities”.
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Middletown Mayor Ken Branner reckoned more than 100 long-term jobs will be created by the technology centre, and more than 2,000 temporary construction jobs, but this is strongly disputed by the locals.
From Cirrus’ viewpoint, an independent source of power is essential to be able to assure maximum uptime. To the townsfolk, the local availability of two high voltage 138kV feeds and worries about pollution negate the company’s arguments.
The consultations continue but now the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) has been asked to make a ruling. The power generator will be required to meet strict air quality standards under the federal Clear Air Act, as well as Delaware environmental regulations regarding water supplies, it said.
In an email to the local paper The Delaware News, Michael Globetti, a spokesman for DNREC, stated: “DNREC will not issue any permits with emissions that may cause hazardous conditions from air or water pollution.”
He added that the permissions process would also include “an opportunity for public comment and an opportunity to request a public hearing at which interested parties may comment”. In some ways, that means it’s almost back to square one for Cirrus – but this time a permit from DNREC would literally and metaphorically clear the air.
The agency began the evaluation process at the end of March and is now preparing a draft permit. Comments from the public have been invited until April 29. When the draft permit is complete, DNREC officials will make it public and the citizens of Middletown will have another 30-day window to make further comment.
A decision will therefore be made around the end of May but whether that will settle the issue remains to be seen.