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Jobs in “Bloom”?: Delaware attracts fuel cell company to old Chrysler Newark site

A company that creates “energy servers” plans to make a home in Delaware, creating up to 900 jobs at a facility which would be built at the site of the old Chrysler Assembly Plant in Newark.

Bloom Energy would become the first high-tech tenant at the facility, which is now owned and being developed by the University of Delaware

Governor Jack Markell (D) says the company’s planned supply network in the region could generate an additional 600 jobs, while 350 people may be employed in the construction phase, which is expected to begin this year.

The announcement represents a whole new chapter in power-generation in Delaware, requiring new legislation and regulations.

“Bloom had a choice to make, a choice of where to build what it calls its ‘factory of the future’ to meet the growing demand for efficient and reliable energy,” Governor Markell said.  “And their choice, what we’re announcing today, is Delaware.”

Click the image to watch a video on Bloom Energy's website about how a solid oxide fuel cell workss

Click the image to watch a video on Bloom Energy's website about how a solid oxide fuel cell works

Bloom Energy is based in California and makes what it calls “Bloom boxes,” or energy servers based in part on technology used by NASA.  “The technology enables efficient conversion of natural gas, which is readily available, and other similar materials into electricity,” Bloom Energy Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Financial Officer Bill Kurtz said.  “The electricity that’s delivered to the customers is clean, reliable and affordable.”

The process is done without combustion, or burning anything such as coal or other fossil fuels.

Bloom is already helping to meet energy needs of such large-scale power consumers as WalMart, Coca-Cola, Google and FedEx.

Governor Markell said efforts to lure Bloom Energy to the First State began about 14 months ago, with a visit to the company’s California headquarters.  The Delaware Economic Development Office proposes to offer a conditional grant of $11.25 million from the state’s strategic fund to Bloom Energy for the 900 people it expects to directly employ.  Additionally, a conditional incentive would be offered of $6,250 for each of up to 600 supplier-related jobs.  These are subject to approval of the Council on Development Finance, which will also be asked to consider a $7 million grant to the University of Delaware for infrastructure improvements at the UD Science and Technology campus being developed at the former Chrysler plant.

Jobs in Bloom

UD Director of Real Estate Andrew Lubin explains why Bloom Energy chose the UD Science & Technology campus



“There are agreements in place that a minimum of 50 percent of the contractors that work at these facilities must be Delaware contractors and/or subcontractors,” said DEDO Director Alan Levin.

Levin said the state also suggests a grant amounting to 3 percent of Bloom’s capital expenditures, which would involve the company’s equipment, computer systems and other costs outside of construction.  The state’s maximum investment into that grant would be $1.5 million.

Levin said conditions of these grants would allow the state to recoup its investment if job targets are not met or if Bloom does not maintain jobs at the Delaware facility for up to seven years.

In addition to serving its commercial businesses, Bloom Energy also would supply locally manufactured power to Delaware homes and businesses, up to 30 MW over 21 years.

Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Colin O’Mara called Bloom’s technology one of the most exciting renewable energy sources in the entire country – “in the entire world, for that matter.”

“Not only does it give you a cleaner source of energy and virtually eliminates all of the traditional air pollutants, but it also does it in a more reliable and high-performance way,” O’Mara said.

The reliability of fuel cells also draws the interest of Delmarva Power, which plans to partner with Bloom to make them a key part of DPL’s renewable energy portfolio.  ”By 2025, 25 percent of the energy supply that Delmarva Power supplies its energy customers in Delaware has to come from a clean source,” Delmarva Power Spokesperson Bridget Shelton said.  “That’s exactly what these fuel cells are.”

Reaction to Bloom Energy commitment to Delaware

Bloom Energy Chief Commercial Officer & Chief Financial Officer Bill Kurtz explains why Bloom Energy chose Delaware as its East coast hub.

Bloom Energy Chief Commercial Officer & Chief Financial Officer Bill Kurtz describes how Bloom Energy technology works

Delmarva Power spokesperson Bridget Shelton says Bloom Energy deal with cost Delaware residents a bit more to tap into renewable energy source.

The use of solar energy and land-based wind power are also currently helping Delmarva Power get closer to that goal, while the utility also has contracts with NRG Bluewater Wind, the developer of a proposed offshore wind farm several miles off the coast of southern Delaware.

Shelton said residential customers would pay, on average, less than 70-cents a month toward the renewable benefit

The Bloom Energy facility and its supply chain would be built on up to 50 acres of dedicated space at the University of Delaware’s Science and Technology Campus, where Chrysler manufactured vehicles until the plant was closed in late 2008.

Bloom Energy's Delaware facility is expected to use 50 acres of the old Chrysler site along Route 4 in Newark

UD Director of Real Estate Andrew Lubin said he believes Bloom Energy was attracted to the site due to its proximity to a research university, near I-95, and easily accessible to Philadelphia, Washington and New York.

“The opportunity of their new technologies coming on an old manufacturing site, and being part of the redevelopment of this site, I think played into their ultimate decision to choose this site,” Lubin said.

Kurtz said while the incentives were part of Bloom’s agreement to come to the First State, “we were impressed with the visionary leadership and the speed at which they could develop an innovative set of policies that support our decision, and make it a very compelling one.”