University of Delaware officials said Thursday that they are pulling the plug on plans for development of a data center at the former Chrysler assembly plant site in Newark.
Officials said in a statement issued by the university that an internal working group concluded that the proposed facility, which included a 279-megawatt power plant, was not consistent with plans for its Science, Technology and Advanced Research, or STAR campus.
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"The university is committed to providing economic development opportunities for the region and state. ... 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.
The Data Centers LLC, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, had proposed building a 900,000-square-foot data center complex with an onsite combined heat and power cogeneration facility. The university in 2012 signed a 75-year land lease with TDC that provided for further detailed review by both parties.
TDC President Gene Kern said in a written statement that the company is evaluating its options and "disagrees that the university can terminate its ground lease for the reasons stated."
The project was supported by Gov. Jack Markell as a jobs creator but drew fierce local opposition from many Newark residents, mostly over concerns about property values and noise, safety and environmental concerns related to the power plant.
"We are glad that the University of Delaware has seen the light," said Jennifer Wallace, a spokeswoman for Newark Residents Against the Power Plant, a grassroots group whose efforts included a legal challenge to local zoning decisions related to the project.
Markell spokeswoman Kelly Bachman said in a written statement that the governor remains interested in working with the university to develop the site. Bachman said "the university conducted an extensive review of the facts and came to the determination that this project is not a good fit for the STAR campus."
The university statement also said that information emanating from TDC last year "suggested that their plans were evolving with greater emphasis being placed on power generation and selling excess energy to the grid, changes that on the surface might not align with the vision for the STAR campus."
The university subsequently appointed a working group to evaluate the project's impact on the STAR campus and surrounding community. In findings released Thursday, the group expressed concern about several issues related to the power plant, including its size, efficiency and emissions.
"There were no issues with the data center. ... It was really about the power plant," said Charlie Riordan, head of UD's working group.
Riordan noted that the proposed 279-megawatt facility was more than twice the size of any comparable facility found by the group's consultants.
"It was going to be emitting very large quantities of both greenhouse gases and other environmental pollutants that certainly would have negative effects ... and would be at odds with the university's commitment to sustainability," he said.
University officials also said TDC had made "numerous changes" to its plans and generally provided only "scant" information in response to requests regarding physical, technical, and environmental aspects of the proposed facility.
"TDC stated that its plans continue to be in the conceptual rather than design stage and subject to change. Unfortunately, this meant that detailed evaluation of most environmental impacts ... was not possible," the university said.