Delaware Electric Co-op is part of a network of cooperatives building a new natural gas plan designed to increase efficiency and keep electricity rates steady for Sussex County residents.
Co-op CEO Bill Andrew said the plant, going up near Rising Sun in Cecil County, Md., about 20 miles east of Newark. The plant will feature two combined combustion turbines, which Andrew said would efficiently generate clean energy. Andrew said the state-of-the-art plant will re-use steam put out by the turbines to generate additional energy using a heat recovery generator.
Andrew said natural gas energy can be produced more cleanly than coal.
“Natural gas has about half the pollution,” Andrew said in an interview. “This plant uses the latest technology and doesn't waste the steam energy generated by the natural gas turbines.”
Andrew said construction of the new plant will not raise rates for Sussex County consumers. Once completed, the plant will produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 390,000 homes. The electricity will be distributed through the PJM Grid, which interconnects Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, and has connections to Delaware and parts of West Virginia and Virginia.
“We have 85,000 customers in Delaware and we have the lowest price in the region,” said Andrew. Delaware Electric Co-op, and 10 other cooperatives like it, are co-owners of the new plant, which will be overseen by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. It is expected to come online in 2017.
“We anticipate the power generated by this plant will be below market-cost for energy for the 30-year life of the plant,” Andrew said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says natural gas is not considered a renewable energy because it takes longer than a human life to regenerate. EPA officials say natural gas is cleaner than coal power because it releases fewer nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, which are considered pollutants.
“It is important to note that all three of the natural gas plants DEC and ODEC have an interest in only run during times of peak energy use, called peaking plants,” said Jeremy Tucker, spokesman for DEC. “The new natural gas plant will run continuously, providing our members with more clean energy produced by natural gas.”
Tucker said DEC will add additional solar power later this year when the company's solar field near Georgetown is completed. The first solar panels are being installed this week, he said.
“The panels were manufactured by Motech Americans in Newark and will eventually cover 20 acres,” Tucker said. “The solar energy farm will produce four megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500 homes.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the solar field is expected to be held in June once the solar field is operational, he said.
Powering the grid
Delaware Electric Cooperative purchases its power from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which has power-generation facilities in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. DEC power comes from:
• 4 percent from renewable resources such as wind farms in Maryland and Pennsylvania and landfill gas facilities, which use methane produced by decomposing trash at landfills to produce energy.
• 63 percent is purchased on the open energy market from coal, natural gas and nuclear sources.
• 17 percent comes from a coal-powered Clover Plant in Virginia.
• 14 percent comes from the North Anna nuclear plant in Virginia.
• 2 percent comes from natural gas plants Old Dominion owns or has a stake in.