Fuel cell energy industry darling Bloom Energy is being courted hard by the state of Delaware to take over a former Chrysler factory and convert it to a “high-tech manufacturing hub.” The action isn’t a done deal yet, but if the cards line up as Delaware and Bloom Energy hope, it could mean big business, and a bit of a big bill, for the tiny state.
Delaware governor Jack Markell broke the news recently about the potential of Bloom Energy coming to his state and manufacturing its energy servers that help power the likes of Google, FedEx, Coca-Cola and WalMart. The facility, if built, would reportedly create up to 1,500 green technology jobs, broken up as “900 people with a potential additional 600 jobs through co-located suppliers.” 350 construction jobs reportedly would be created as well, with production at the Bloom Energy facility beginning as early as mid 2012.
Up to 50 acres from the old Chrysler site would be dedicated to the new Bloom facility and its supply chain, according to the governor’s office. The old auto plant closed at this location in 2008, with the University of Delaware picking up the property the following year. The university likely would need to create infrastructure improvements throughout the entire site to help get it ready for its own needs and that of Bloom Energy.
As mentioned previously, a number of hurdles still exist before all of this becomes a reality. These include a final agreement with Delmarva Power, as well as the passage of enabling legislation and regulatory approval. Delmarva Power’s role in this comes as a potential partner with Bloom to facilitate a 30 MW fuel cell installation as part of the utility’s renewable energy portfolio. This is subject to the need for specific legislation that would (1) establish a regulatory framework for fuel cells and (2) enable locally produced, clean energy from Bloom Energy Servers to be counted towards Delmarva Power’s renewable portfolio requirements.
As is the case with any clean energy news like this, lots of dollars are involved. Numbers mentioned by the governor’s office in this deal include (1) a $7,000,000 grant to help fix up the old Chrysler location (2) a conditional grant from the Delaware Economic Development Office to the whopping tune of “$11,250,000 for the 900 direct jobs” and (3) a conditional incentive of “$6,250 for each job (up to 600) co-located to the site by suppliers.” Oh, and there’s also mention of an offer of up to 3% of Bloom’s total capital expenditures up to the first $50 million of Bloom’s CAPEX.
For all the money being thrown into this venture, Delaware officials noted that the conditional grant allows the state “to recapture its investment if job targets are not met or if Bloom does not maintain the jobs at its Delaware facility for up to seven years, with recovery equal to the percentage of the employment target unmet.”
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