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Brookfield Renewable plans Sussex solar field

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A global private management firm is proposing a 75-megawatt solar array in Milford, as envisioned in this rendering. | PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSSEX COUNTY GOVERNMENT

MILFORD — A new global private management firm is looking to enter Delaware’s renewable energy race, as it looks to build one of the biggest solar arrays seen yet in Sussex County.

Brookfield Renewable Partners, based in Toronto, Canada, has filed plans with county officials to construct a 75-megawatt array on the west side of U.S. Route 113 and outside Milford. The array will be built on 351 acres of land owned by the Calhoun family. Brookfield Renewable would lease the property for 20 years from the family, and the project would include 25 inverters, transformers and its own substation.

The project, called Freeman Solar, would produce the equivalent of power for 13,350 Delaware homes.

“We are interested [in this project] due to the nearby infrastructure. We are focused on delivering sustainable products to the market, meeting the increased demand for renewable energy in PJM, one of the largest wholesale market systems in the world,” Brookfield Renewable Director of ESG, Sustainability & Public Affairs Julie Pelletier told the Delaware Business Times.

In particular, Delmarva Power has an electrical substation next door to the proposed property. Substations help reduce the voltage of electricity delivered to homes and businesses across the region, and recent upgrades to their design make a more stable energy grid and reduce potential outages.

Brookfield Renewable Partners is the flagship power company of Brookfield Asset Management, a firm that oversees $755 billion in assets. The company’s portfolio consists of hydroelectric, wind, solar and storage facilities in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. In total, its portfolio includes 21,000 megawatts of installed capacity and an approximately 69,000-megawatt development pipeline.

In a quarterly earnings report to investors issued May 2, Brookfield Renewable reported that it commissioned 536 megawatts of capacity and continued to advance U.S. repowering programs, including the 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat project, as well as a 1,200-megawatt Janauba solar development project in Brazil.

Brookfield is also known for selling its assets in the energy and sustainability portfolio, as it reached an agreement in the 2021 first quarter to sell a small hydro portfolio in Brazil that returned “almost three times our capital” over a decade’s hold period.

“Brookfield Renewable seeks partnerships with organizations who align with our business objectives to supply renewable energy. We will assess any opportunities presented,” Pelletier said.

While this is Brookfield Renewables first venture in the First State, it is far from the first time Delaware has seen solar attract attention from outside investors. Capital Dynamics acquired the Dover Sun Park in 2020, and Amazon and Energie brokered a deal on a solar field in Townsend last November and Amazon recently reached a deal for more solar energy in Smyrna.

In 2021, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 33 which raised the state’s renewable energy mandate up to 40% by 2035 which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As the Delaware Business Times previously reported last year, Delmarva Power reached its state-mandated renewable energy goal in 2019-20 largely by buying power from out-of-state projects rather than generating its own power from in-state projects.

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