Appeals are likely as power plant facility crosses first hurdle
Middletown, Delaware has voted to approve a plan for a data center to be built alongside a new natural gas generation plant, after protests prevented a similar co-generation project elsewhere in the state.
Cirrus Delaware LLC has proposed a 228,000 sq ft (21,000 sq m) data center with 40 MW of capacity, to be built alongside a natural gas generation plant capable of producing 52.5 MW. The proposed facility would be in a heavy industrial park, but it has received vocal opposition from nearby residents. In 2014, a project with a larger generation capacity, planned for a brownfield site in the University of Delaware, Newark, was halted after protests.
Source: Thinkstock / Eric Crama
In certain circles of the data center business, just mentioning the word “Delaware” can shut down any conversation. After the Newark project was cancelled, it looked as if a similar fate would befall the Middletown plan, for a large data center plan with a much smaller co-generation aspect, coming from a company that was part of the Newark fiasco.
But after proponents and opponents presented their arguments to its full monthly meeting, the Middletown town council voted to approve the plan for the data center / natural gas co-generation plant.
The attorney for the company pitching the development had a few vocal supporters in the room who spoke for the positive benefits of building the development, while opponents of the plan presented a petition with over 500 signatures in opposition to approval.
While project planners point out the need for the facility to maintain five nines of uptime for the data center, detractors have asked why planned expansion of the power lines coming into the city aren’t sufficient. To the run of the mill consumer, the power requirements and need for the high level of power reliability are somewhat arcane. They suggest that whatever power available should be “good enough” for the data center, while the potential operators claim that “good enough” will not allow them to attract customers.
The town council vote is only the first step towards final approval; detractors will have additional opportunities in open hearings to prevent the project from being accepted in its current form.
Protesters have called for an open meeting where the builder will provide substantiated facts about its building claims, while those in favor have pointed out that definitive statements made by objectors, who claim that the facility would result in additional asthma attacks, heart attacks, cancer, and premature deaths, are also unproven.