NEW BRITAIN, CT — Manufacturing by Stanley Black & Decker ended in the buildings on Curtis Street about 30 years ago, but the buildings were too well-built to be torn down and will shortly become home to a $1 billion energy and data center.
The reinforced concrete buildings constructed after World War I and World War II will soon house large computers and what’s being touted as “the world’s largest indoor fuel cell installation” to power it.
There is technically no state investment in the property, aside from its agreement to purchase power. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection selected the fuel cell project as one of the winners of the state’s renewable energy bid in 2017. The fuel cell project will enable it to negotiate power generation contracts with the state’s two large electrical utilities.
The data center will be leased to one of the big computing companies who will then lease space to companies or institutions like Yale University or Jackson Labs.
Mark Wick, a partner in EIP, LLC, the developer of the project, said they’ve had conversations with both Yale and Jackson Labs about their “high-performance computing requirements.”
The closest high performance computing center is in Holyoke, Mass.
The waste energy from the fuel cells will then be used to help power a four-acre hydroponic vegetable farm nearby. The company will be using R&D Dynamics based in Bloomfield to turn the heat into electricity with their Organic Rankine Cycle engine.
The first phase of construction is set to begin this month, which was cause for celebration from Connecticut’s elected officials.
Gov. Ned Lamont and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart joined with other elected officials Wednesday to celebrate the milestone for a project that’s been 10 years in the making.
The property will add over $200 million in revenues to the state and $45 million in revenues to the city of New Britain.
“This is a private deal. This is great entrepreneurs and development,” Lamont said. “And it’s going to be the heart and soul of a technology initiative across the state.”
The first phase of construction involves the renovation of the two buildings and the installation of 19.98 megawatts of grid-connected fuel cells from Doosan Fuel Cells in South Windsor. There will be 44 of the fuel cells installed in the building.
“They are like high tech shipping containers,’ Wick said.
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said it’s also making a great re-use of an industrial site that could be a challenge for remediation.
“This project will be contributing to the thriving economy in New Britain but also to improving the health of the citizens of New Britain and across the state,” Dykes said citing harmful emissions and air pollutants that won’t exist as part of this project.
“We’ve had a longstanding commitment to supporting the fuel cell industry in this state,” Dykes said.
Wick said it was fitting that this transformation is taking place on the Stanley Black & Decker campus that transformed New Britain 175 years ago with innovation.
Stewart said that the data center was going to be “transformative for our city.”
She said the center will become one of New Britain’s largest taxpayers overnight.
New Britain which is 95 miles from New York and 98 miles from Boston is perfectly positioned for this type of development.
While data centers themselves don’t create many direct jobs, the companies using the data center will be creating the jobs of the future, according to officials.