Clean, renewable energy is now flowing to hundreds of homes in rural Delaware, courtesy of Delaware Electric Cooperative’s Bruce A. Henry Solar Energy Farm near Georgetown. A portion of the 20-acre solar array began producing power in July, but the entire facility became operational this week.
Construction on the solar energy farm began in January, as more than 40 Delaware contractors worked to install 16,000 solar panels. The panels were manufactured in the First State by Motech Americas, based in Newark, and the project was managed by SunEdison.
“Once plans to build the solar farm were finalized, we decided to use products made in Delaware. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, this project has provided a boost to the state’s economy,” said Bill Andrew, president and CEO of Delaware Electric Cooperative.
According to Dave Holleran, senior manager of Module Sales at Motech, “We feel this is particularly meaningful since these solar panels were made right in Delaware by an American workforce. That brings us a certain amount of pride and satisfaction, and we are confident of the energy-saving and environmental benefits that this installation will deliver.”
The solar farm is capable of producing four megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500 homes. The project cost $14 million, and co-op officials said the facility could eventually be expanded to 40 acres, with the ability to produce power for 1,000 homes.
The renewable energy project was developed by SunEdison, and in the first year of operation the farm will prevent more than 12 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air - the equivalent of taking 1,239 cars off the road.
“Delaware Electric Cooperative is a national leader in providing cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. “With this new solar energy farm, the cooperative is helping Delaware transition to a cleaner energy future, supporting local manufacturing and construction, and further establishing our state as a national leader in solar power.”
The farm is named after longtime DEC board member Bruce A. Henry. Henry is a strong proponent of renewable energy and sits on the Board of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which provides energy to Delaware Electric Co-op and 10 other electric cooperatives in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Delaware utilities will be required to purchase or produce 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, and the construction of the solar energy farm will help DEC comply with state regulations.
Currently, about 10 percent of the co-op’s energy comes from green sources. Earlier this year, DEC also announced a deal to purchase energy produced at the Sandtown Landfill in Kent County. New engines are being built at the site, which will convert excess methane gas into electricity. The co-op expects to purchase enough energy from the facility to power 1,000 homes.