University of Delaware Nixes CHP Data Center Project

July 15, 2014 By Karen Henry

UD-star-campus-energy-manageThe University of Delaware (UD) has put a halt to a plan to develop a data center on the university’s Science, Technology & Advanced Research (STAR) Campus, after it conducted a study finding that the proposed combined heat and power (CHP) plant for the data center would be too large and emit too much greenhouse gases.

UD received a proposal from The Data Centers (TDC) in 2011 to construct a data center with a 279 MW CHP cogeneration power plant on the STAR Campus.

During the spring and summer of 2013, information from TDC suggested that its plans were evolving with greater emphasis on power generation and selling excess energy to the grid, so the provost assigned a working group, made up of UD faculty and administrative leaders, to review TDC’s plan.

After investigating the quality of the facility plans, the size of the power plant and the potential effects of resulting greenhouse gases and other pollutants on the environment, the group made the following key findings:

  • A data center would be advantageous to the STAR Campus, with the potential to provide research and internship opportunities, enhance the property infrastructure to attract other tenants and provide construction and permanent jobs and provide tax revenue for local schools and community.
  • Contemporary high-quality data centers use the existing grid or deploy a combination of the existing grid and renewable energy generation to meet their power needs. This approach appears to be advantageous on many grounds: reliability, economic and environmental.
  • Relative to other fossil-fuel energy sources, the CHP facility TDC proposed is an efficient and viable transitional energy generation technology. However, its efficiency is predicated on being appropriately sized such that the recovered heat can be used or sold throughout the year as useful energy. It was not clear that this would be the case with TDC’s plan, particularly in the non-summer months.
  • The cogeneration facility that TDC proposed is at least two times larger than any other on-site power generation facility known at data centers in the United States.
  • Significant generation of greenhouse gases with insufficient plans to capture and sequester carbon dioxide and the emission of other pollutants would have negative effects on UD’s commitments to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint.

The Working Group concluded that the proposed facility is not consistent with a first-class science and technology campus and high-quality development to which UD is committed.

The findings are detailed in the Group’s report.

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