Solar panels installed at Ocean Atlantic’s Independence, an active adult community in Millsboro, have created enough electricity to offset more than $1 million of electric bills. Over 170 residents in Independence have had solar installed on their homes. Independence Hall, the large community gathering center, also has solar creating much of its electricity.
Solar is particularly attractive to retired people or those about to retire. Because solar panels last for decades (panels have a 25-year warranty), they will continue producing power from the sun, as electricity prices rise over time. Every time electric rates rise, solar panels save homeowners more money. “Retirees and anyone on a fixed income can breathe easier that an increase in electric rates will not impact them nearly as much as someone without solar,” said Independence resident Art Payne.
Solar has become much more affordable over the years, and now costs less than one-third of what it did 10 years ago. Federal and state incentives are still available to help offset much of the cost of solar. “A lot of our customers originally assumed that solar would be too expensive for them until they saw our prices, and factored in the generous incentives from Delaware and the federal government. Solar pays for itself quickly and keeps saving money for many years to follow,” said John Sertich, president of solar design and installation company Clean Energy USA, located in Rehoboth Beach.
While the savings on bills is often the primary motivator for choosing solar, Independence residents Ron and Pat Schaeffer cite both the electric savings and environmental reasons for their satisfaction with solar. “The most obvious benefit is financial. Last year we had six months with zero energy costs, in addition to the other months when our bills were really low. We are already on track this year to achieve similar energy savings again. After receiving the tax credit and the state rebates, our system will have paid for itself in five years. To us, the more important benefit is our small but meaningful contribution to lowering fossil fuel usage and CO2 emissions. Climate change is real and we all can help manage it.”
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. Houses use whatever electricity they need, offsetting power that would have otherwise been purchased from the power company. Whatever electricity that the house does not need goes out through the power company’s meter, spinning it backward and reducing the electric bill further. Since the first systems were installed at Independence in 2008, approximately 8,700,000 kWh of electricity have been produced by solar panels in the community.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental calculator, the electricity produced to date at Independence is the equivalent of offsetting greenhouse gasses from over 15,869,000 miles driven by passenger cars.
Solar can help reduce civic and commercial infrastructure costs by saving utility companies the need to build additional transfer capabilities in remote areas. When summer air conditioning loads create high demand on the power company, having solar producing facilities (even on individual homes and businesses) helps offset the need to buy or create more expensive electricity. Because solar panels often produce a high amount of power on sunny days in the summer, they can offset the need for the utility to purchase more expensive power for their customers.
According to Delaware Electric Cooperative’s website: “There are two major factors that affect the price of electricity - the price of fuel such as coal or natural gas needed to generate power, and the demand for power. The demand for electricity on our system is greatest in the hot summer months between the peak period hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. During normal load periods we pay only pennies per kilowatt-hour for power. However, during peak demand or energy periods when the temperatures rise, we can pay up to one dollar per kilowatt-hour and in turn, we must pass these higher costs on to our members which may have an impact on rates.”
Independence is an active adult community in Millsboro developed by Ocean Atlantic Associates and featuring energy efficient houses built by Schell Brothers.
The electricity statistics in this article are based on monitoring data tabulated by Clean Energy USA for the 162 systems they have installed in Independence and an estimated total of the electricity produced by systems installed by other contractors and systems where monitoring data is not available.