Solar farms are growing in Sussex County
Solar farms are the newest agricultural option in Sussex County. More than a dozen applications for solar arrays have been either filed or approved by county council over the past year, with three new ones, all in western Sussex, pending a decision.
The increased interest in solar energy is directly related to the state's goal of raising Delaware's renewable energy rate to 40% and the federal government goal to have pollution-free energy production by 2035.
Those goals have created a dramatic upscaling of renewable energy production in the United States. Currently, all renewables account for about 18% of electric generation, with wind and hydroelectric making up nearly 80% of all renewables.
Solar farms are not only a sustainable energy source collected from the sun; they can also be profitable, recovering their initial investment in nine to 12 years, resulting in free energy for the remainder of the farm's 20- to 25-year lifespan.
In our part of the world, there is no doubt solar energy production is ramping up.
While most solar farms are on 20- to 40-acre parcels, one project near Milford will be the largest by far. Plans were approved last year for Freeman Solar's 166,500 solar panels on 10 parcels totaling 351 acres.
Because the ideal location for solar farms is in rural, unincorporated areas, approval has fallen on the shoulders of the county’s planning & zoning commission and council. When farms are approved, officials impose conditions, including fencing, emergency contact information and buffers.
Since nearly every one has the same conditions, county council is looking to include standards in code.
Solar farms are not a permitted use, so applicants must file conditional-use applications that result in two public hearings. There is rarely any opposition because of the projects’ rural nature.
When code was written, solar energy was not even contemplated. The influx of applications has forced the county to take action.
We applaud county council for addressing this issue and urge them to change code to make solar farms a permitted use.
Electric utilities that provide power to Sussex County homes and businesses are partnering with several different solar companies to get the solar farms online. Participating in two public hearings only delays action.