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Officials offer look at UD STAR campus progress

Bloom Energy and University of Delaware officials offered a peek at the progress at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research or STAR campus Friday.

Construction on Bloom’s manufacturing plant at the site is on track to have the 200,000 square foot facility online and producing Bloom Boxes this summer.

Over 100,000 man hours and 600 tons of steel have gone into putting the building up. It has 23 miles of conduit and 123 miles of electrical wire under its floor that will power operations. And the facility will use Bloom Boxes, including ones being tested before shipping, to power the facility.

Officials offer look at UD STAR campus progress
The view inside the Bloom Energy manufacturing facility on the UD STAR Campus. (Click to enlarge)

Bloom’s V.P. for Business development Joshua Richman also notes that they expect to meet their obligation to the state to have 300 employees there by September of 2014.

“The agreement we worked on with the state had very clear deliverables in terms of dates by which the factory had to be constructed and in terms of number of employees we agreed to hire and we are meeting or exceeding all of those commitments,” said Richman. The state’s deal with Bloom called for Delaware to give the company $16.5 million dollars fro the promise of creating 900 full-time direct jobs and supporting 600 full-time indirect jobs.

Gov. Jack Markell calls Bloom’s progress good news for the First State.

“That’s what this is all about. It’s really about putting people to work. They’ve already got some who are in training [in California] right now. It will be even better when they’re here and producing real equipment. Of course, the building’s not ready for that, but it will be by the end of summer,” said Markell.

In the wake of Fisker Automotive’s troubles and the likelihood Delaware will not see the jobs it had hoped that deal would deliver, Markell says the Bloom’s imminent start-up adds to what the governor sees as positive economic development news.

“Fisker obviously has been a problem, but I think the [Delaware City] refinery more than met its benchmarks, Bloom here will meet its benchmarks. J.P. MorganChase adding 1200 jobs, Citigroup adding hundreds of jobs, Bank of America cutting 30,000 across the country, but adding 500 here in Delaware, the recent announcement of the poultry plat in Sussex County adding 700 jobs – there’s a lot of good news,” said Markell. “And it’s exciting to see this new building go up and especially to be in it to get a sense of what’s going to go on here.

Bloom and state officials added that interest from local private sector companies in purchasing Bloom Boxes appears to be sufficient to avoid an increase to the surcharge Delmarva Power customers pay as part of the Bloom deal.

“We don’t anticipate that. We’re seeing a lot of interest from private sector companies that would love to have these units, particular one who want the reliability guarantees,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara. “Interest is very high, particularly since [Hurricane Sandy].

“The storm really helped people realize how vulnerable their electricity supply is and how a reliable energy supply is necessary for them to maintain critical operations,” said Richman. “In the wake of the storm, people have been looking around for effective solutions to met their energy and sustainability and reliability needs and Bloom has had a lot of very good customer interest as a result.

Officials offer look at UD STAR campus progress
A mural on a wall in the former Newark Chrysler plant administration building remains as part of the UD Health Sciences building. (Click to enlarge)

UD officials also showed off progress on the school’s Health Sciences Building, on the site of the former Chysler plant’s administration building.

The first 105,000 square foot phase is slated to be completed and ready for use in January 2014. That will house a variety of academic and research components associated with the university’s College Of Health Sciences. A second 80,000 square foot amenities portion featuring retail, restaurants and offices will also be done in January 2014, with tenant occupancy expected in March 2014. Construction on a 10 story tower adjacent to the Health Sciences building is scheduled to being in the fall with a summer 2015 target date for completion.

Delle Donne Associates is developing the site. It’s president, Ernie Delle Donne, described the tenant demand for the site has been “vibrant” and added that his company and UD are working on a market study to examine adding a 250 room full-service hotel with 70,000 square feet of meeting space to the campus.

“It would be used by the University as an amenity to the University, but also used by others who want to come, share research, have meetings,” said Delle Donne. “It’s just something that needs to be at this site, not only for this 15 acres [Delle Donne Assoc. is developing], but for the entire 250 acre campus.”

Delle Donne says two more 10 story office towers are also envisioned for the piece of the campus his company is developing. If built, the 15 acre portion would wind up being home to over a million and a half square feet of space.

University officials also noted work has begun relocation of the Newark rail station on to the STAR campus. The project is expected to eventually include construction of a platform capable of handling an 800-foot or 1,000-foot Amtrak train and the addition of Maryland commuter service to Newark.