Thursday, April 18, 2013

State's largest solar farm dedicated

The 80-acre Milford Solar Farm, with its 62,000 solar panels, is one of the largest on the East Coast. Officials dedicated it Wednesday. / GARY EMEIGH/The News Journal
MILFORD — The largest solar farm in Delaware is easy to miss behind the back lots of a CPA’s office, a barbershop, a computer-repair store and a gas station on Milford-Harrington Highway.
“Couldn’t ask for a better neighbor,” said Richard Mulholland, the owner of the barbershop, who takes his dog for walks back there. “Nobody’s ever home.”
The 80-acre array of 62,000 solar panels in the field behind Mulholland’s store is a marker along Delaware’s journey toward increased in-state and renewable energy production. Operated by Newark, N.J.,-based PSEG, it generates 12 megawatts of A/C power, and went online in late December, sending enough energy into the power grid in Milford to power 1,250 homes.
Company officials, joined by Gov. Jack Markell, dedicated the Milford Solar Farm Wednesday, with Markell calling it “a great fit with Delaware’s commitment to a future of clean, renewable energy projects.”
The power produced by the Milford Solar Farm, one of the largest on the East Coast, will be purchased, under a 20-year agreement, by the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp., a wholesale electricity utility that’s been shifting its energy portfolio away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.
All Delaware electric utilities will have to buy 3.5 percent of their power from solar sources within 12 years, and DEMEC is about halfway there, said Patrick McCullar, its president and CEO, with 1.4 percent of its power coming from solar panels.
Just five years ago, most of DEMEC’s power supply came from burning coal at plants like the NRG Indian River Power Plant in Millsboro and only 2.6 percent came from renewable sources. In 2013, natural gas is slated to be DEMEC’s main power source, and all renewables account for 16.3 percent of the energy it delivers, a bit less than the percentage it gets from coal.
The municipalities DEMEC serves – Newark, New Castle, Middletown, Clayton, Smyrna, Dover, Milford, Lewes and Seaford – “want us to invest in this stuff,” McCullar said. “They want to see renewable energy as part of their power portfolio.”