Proposed data center and power plant on “fast track” in Middletown

The Planning & Zoning Commission sent a recommendation to approve the parcels next to Home Depot and Amazon, formerly known as Middletown Auto Park, for use to build a technology center combined with a cogeneration natural gas power plant. Steven Lewandowski of Cabe Associates said the plan is to break ground in the fall of 2015, with a projected completion date in early 2017.

Mr. Lewandowski’s presentation concerned a proposal for a 228,000-square foot complex that would house a data center with multiple tenants. The data center would draw from the electrical grid with a dual 158Kv feed. During times of peak grid usage, in other words, business hours, the data center would also draw electricity from its onsite generation station. The power plant would run on natural gas supplied by Chesapeake Utilities.

While prior discussions about jobs mentioned 2000 construction jobs, the data center and power plant are expected to employ “up to 125” according to Mr. Lewandowski. The largest shift could employ around 50 workers.

The hearing brought out residents with concerns. Some were there to speak out in support of the project, citing a need for jobs in the area. Other residents were concerned with noise issues and environmental impact.

During his presentation, Mr. Lewandowski stated that the parcel will not fall in a Water Resource Protection Area, although it seems that if this is true, it’s only true by a matter of feet (or adjustments). See http://www.wra.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/WRPANCC_3_Dec2011_opthigh.pdf for more information on New Castle County Water Protection Areas.

Mr. Lewandowski was asked about the owners and/or operators or the data center as well as the power plant. Residents were informed that, at this point, that information is “proprietary,” and could not be revealed at this time.

When asked about pollutants, such as CO2, NOx, and particulates, Mr. Lewandowski was unable to answer, saying only that a permit will be required from DNREC and a public hearing would be in order. When asked about noise levels, Mr. Lewandowski assured the questioner that the plant would fall within acceptable decibel levels. Upon further questioning about sound-proof buildings typically used, Mr. Lewandowski admitted that none were currently planned, raising new questions about decibel levels.

One resident brought up questions about “peak shaving,” which was referred to in the presentation. Typical “peaking plants” are used to sell power into the electrical grid at inflated rates due to demand, but Mr. Lewandowski says it is unclear whether power will be sold. This answer did not satisfy the resident.

Also noticed, but not mentioned, is an apparent change in the layout of the property. Here is an image (although blurry) of the revised layout.

DataCenterPowerPlantNewLayoutBlurry

The project now moves on to the Mayor and full council, possibly as early as June 1st. The plan to “break ground” in the fall seems to suggest the intention to move forward quickly with this project. Coupled with the “proprietary” information concerning the owner/operators has to raise issues and questions.

Any questions concerning this article can be sent to: alan.d.harris@gmail.com

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