Wilmington, Delaware ranked a top U.S. city for solar energy; 3rd in the nation in solar power per capita
Posted on 04/11/2014 2:21 pm
Press conference showcases solar carport at Delaware Tech Wilmington campus
WILMINGTON (April 11, 2014) – With a new 230-killowatt (kW) solar carport at Delaware Technical Community College’s Wilmington campus as a backdrop, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams and Delaware Tech Exec. Vice President Dr. Mark Brainard joined with Environment America Advocate Adam Graber to announce Wilmington’s ranking as one of the nation’s “Solar Stars” – a top city in the U.S. for solar energy.
In the report, Shining Cities – At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution, released by Environment America Research & Policy Center, Wilmington is ranked 3rd among cities nationwide for solar capacity per capita in 2013. According to the report, Wilmington boasts more solar power capacity than Houston, Tex., which is 55 times its size. In another report released last year by Environment America, Delaware was among the states leading the nation in solar energy – ranked 7th per capita for cumulative solar installations and 5th per capita for solar installations in 2012.
This report attributes Wilmington’s leadership and commitment to solar power, along with Delaware’s energy legislation and strong public policies, support from federal programs and innovative financing options for the city’s growth in solar power.
“Encouraging solar power is the right thing to do for the environment and our economy,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “We are aggressively working toward a clean energy future and demonstrating that we can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment. That means creating a robust market for solar and other clean energy systems, creating clean energy jobs, expanding our solar energy industry and improving air quality by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”
According to the report, America has more than 200 times as much solar capacity today as it did in 2002, and America’s cities are helping to lead the clean energy revolution. The price of solar energy is rapidly declining making it more economical, and more and more Americans are reaping the benefits of solar’s clean, sustainable, locally-generated power.
Wilmington’s growth in solar capacity has been tremendous. From Dec. 2008 - 2013, the city’s solar capacity grew from 0.5 Megawatts (MW) to 7 MW – a 14-fold increase (1,400 percent). In 2013, solar capacity increased more than 55 percent over the previous year (2012). To date, nearly 200 solar energy systems have been installed on businesses, schools, homes and government buildings, including the city’s two significant projects – the 526 kW solar array at the Porter Water Filtration Plant and the 347 kW system on the William J. Turner Municipal Complex. Wilmington’s 7 MW of solar capacity eliminates about 3,800 tons of carbon dioxide gas annually that leads to global warming.
“The substantial increase in the City of Wilmington’s solar power usage reflects our community’s strong commitment to integrating solar technology across a variety of platforms,” said Mayor Dennis P. Williams. “Expanding our use of solar and other renewable energy sources will positively impact the public health and environmental quality; strengthen the economy and develop more reliable energy sources.”
Today’s announcement was held at the Wilmington Campus of Delaware Technical Community College, a leader in the area of energy sustainability. In 2010, the college developed a Sustainable Energy Management Plan to reduce its energy use by 20 percent by the year 2020 and reduce its carbon footprint by 20 percent.
In December, Delaware Tech became host to Delaware’s largest combined use of rooftop, carport and ground mount arrays with an 800-kilowatt solar installation statewide. These arrays, completed in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, are located at each of Delaware Tech’s four campus locations. This 2,645-panel solar project, constructed under a Power Purchase Agreement with Standard Solar, Inc., is expected to produce approximately 6 percent of the college’s annual total energy needs. The majority of the project’s solar modules, a product of Motech Americas LLC in Newark, were installed by Delaware companies. The solar panels installed at the Wilmington Campus include both roof mounts on the West Building and a 230-kilowatt carport.
“I am extremely proud that the State of Delaware and Delaware Tech are at the forefront of solar energy and building a sustainable future. We are committed, not only to being environmentally-responsible through the use of solar power, but also to educate the workforce in this critical area. The college will continue to be a regional center of excellence in energy education and to support Governor Markell's goal to create energy-related jobs for Delawareans.” said Delaware Tech President, Dr. Orlando J. George, Jr.
Delaware Tech has constructed energy education facilities in each county. The college also offers associate degree programs in renewable energy solar, energy management, and building automation systems.
O’Mara has been a leading proponent of green energy projects up and down the state. He said the report confirms the commitment Delaware has made to renewable energy.
“Working closely with the local solar industry, Delaware has emerged as a national leader in solar energy by adopting progressive policies and programs that have led to a 29 fold increase in new solar installations since 2008,” said Secretary O’Mara. “Delaware’s commitment to solar energy is paying dividends in terms of cleaner energy, lower costs, and new jobs for Delawareans. Innovative state policies have supported the deployment of more than 1,600 systems, sharply reducing the cost of solar energy and providing entrepreneurial opportunities for installers and manufacturers. Environmentally, through these investments, we are improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions as an important part of our climate strategy.”
In the report, Delaware was cited with other leading solar states for cutting-edge energy legislation and policies that are among the most aggressive in the county. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (25 percent of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energy sources by 2025) and the solar “carve out” (3.5 percent from solar by 2025) are creating vigorous markets for solar energy. The state’s strong net metering and interconnection policies, which allow customers to sell excess solar power back to the grid, are among the most progressive in the country. Though Executive Order 18, state government is leading by example by procuring 1 percent of its electricity procurement from in-state solar energy, while bringing down the overall cost of power for state agencies.
Delaware has been innovative in the use of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) by utilities to meet their obligation to obtain a portion of their electricity from solar power. Working closely with the State’s Renewable Energy Task Force and Delmarva Power and Light, Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility has helped create a stable market for new solar power projects in Delaware by conducting auctions for long term SREC contracts on behalf of Delmarva Power. Delmarva Power buys most of its SRECs through this long-term contracting mechanism, which makes it easier to finance new projects of all sizes. As a result of competition and market efficiencies, installation costs and corresponding SREC prices have fallen sharply in the last two years, which means much lower compliance costs for ratepayers.
As a result of those policies, electric customers have lower energy compliance costs. Senator Harris McDowell III, sponsored the law authorizing the SREC program, as well as Delaware’s internationally recognized energy bond program that leverages private sector dollars to pay for public sector energy conservation and efficiency projects.
“We’ve been willing to look ahead and think outside the box to come up with ideas that encourage energy conservation as well as ideas that help spur the growth of renewable energy,” said Senator McDowell. “Although there were growing pains, I’m pleased that the Sustainable Energy Utility’s solar energy credit trading program has stabilized the solar energy market and nurtured the growth of the fledgling industry.”
Delaware has offered financial incentives encouraging businesses and homeowners to switch to solar power. Since 2002 the Delaware Green Energy Program has funded almost $30 million in solar rebates for more than 1,600 systems for homeowners, small businesses, schools and non-profit agencies. A $250,000 Delaware’s Green Energy Fund grant was awarded to Wilmington’s Porter Water Filtration Plant solar project in 2011.
Through the federal Energy Efficiency Community Grant Block program, 15 of the state’s towns, including Newport, Bowers Beach and Ellendale, installed solar power systems on their municipal buildings. These policies and programs are helping Delawareans take advantage of the 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar PV installations on residential and commercial properties.
For more information, visit the Delaware Division of Energy & Climate’s website, http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy/Pages/default.aspx. To view Environment America’s report, visit their website by clicking “Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution”