Newark residents discuss proposed data center at meeting

By Tom Lehman 1:36am, September 25, 2013 - Updated 1:34am, September 26, 2013
Participants in Tuesday's town hall meeting discuss the proposed data center and its 248-megawatt power supply.
More than 200 local residents turned out Tuesday night for a town hall meeting soliciting comments on a proposal from Data Centers LLC to construct a 900,000 square foot facility that includes a 248-megawatt generating facility.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports...

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Many of those residents took turns speaking about the matter in the Newark High School auditorium, with the large majority of them expressing displeasure over the plan because of its controversial power supply.

The plan calls for the facility to be located on the University of Delaware's Science Technology and Advanced Research Campus, which is located at the former site of the Chrysler Plant in Newark on South College Avenue.

"We haven't had a chance for the public to just really speak up and share their concerns," said State Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark), who helped organize the meeting.

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Among those who spoke during the meeting was Amy Roe, a Siera Club member who also lives less than a mile from where the $1 billion facility would be located.

Roe is worried about noise and environmental pollution created by the power generating facility, which would be powered with natural gas.

"This is a project that would emit fine particulates. It would emit ammonia, a lot of things into the environment that haven't yet been talked about," said Roe, who also noted that her father lives 2000 feet away from the proposed site of the data center.

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Representatives for The Data Centers LLC have said the system would prevent power outages that could jeopardize electronic information used by its clients. The company says those turbines will produce a lower level of emissions and noise than other, more traditional plants.

Also speaking at the meeting were members of Newark City Council, one of whom said the municipal government may have more leverage in the matter than previously thought.

"The Data Centers LLC literally does not have the authority to sell the power their tenants without our agreement," said City Councilman Mark Morehead (District 1), who told the crowd that the proposal was not a "done deal."

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Morehead said TDC would have to enter into an agreement with the city to sell the power needed for operating the servers housed within the facility, which would give council a "much stronger" opportunity to discuss the matter and negotiate with the company.

The company's lease, Morehead said, was configured in such a way that clients could host a computer inside the data center but would be sold power to operate that equipment. He says TDC would not have the legal authority to make those transactions without city approval.

The university also announced on Tuesday that it had created a working group including several college deans to review the proposal.

The committee plans to "engage independent third-party engineering consultants, who will review the technical plans," according to a news release on the university's website.

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