[caption id="attachment_233975" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The Soltage solar array in Wilmington is one of several large arrays, but Delaware users still get most of their renewable energy from out-of-state projects. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
It was nearly 20 years ago when Delaware first laid out its plan to begin moving away from a carbon-based energy supply, dictating how much renewable energy should be created annually in the drive toward a zero-carbon supply.Two years ago, Gov. John Carney ratcheted up the timeline on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which lay out the annual benchmarks ending at 40% of power by 2035. This year, 23% of energy must be renewable with 3% coming from solar energy.And while Delaware’s largest energy producer, Delmarva Power, has routinely met its annual goals, the fact remains that most of that green energy is created outside of the First State.According to Delmarva’s 2021-22 RPS compliance report filed with the Public Service Commission, for the year ending June 30, 2022, less than 1% of its acquired Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) came from Delaware projects. The utility bought 7,087 RECs totaling about $170,000 from Ameresco, a company that creates electricity by burning gas emitted from landfills in Kent and Sussex counties.Meanwhile, Delmarva paid about $18.1 million to wind farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois and other states to meet Delaware’s requirements.For its compliance on the solar power carveout, Delmarva does invest more into Delaware, with nearly half of its Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) acquired through an annual auction of homeowners and small businesses with solar panels. But its brokered purchases for much of the remaining solar power also comes to other states, with North Carolina arrays making up about 30% of total SRECs.The Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC), a not-for-profit energy producer and distributor that serves much of Kent and Sussex counties, has made investments of its own in solar energy, with more than 5 megawatts of power online in current solar farms. It plans to open the Diamond State Solar Energy Farm in Greenwood this year, which will nearly double its production.Despite its investment though, DEC only produced 10% of its total power last year through renewable sources, with 36% coming from natural gas-fired power plants and 38% purchased from the market.There is some positive momentum in Delaware, however, as a massive 50-megawatt solar farm near Townsend backed by French energy developer Engie and e-commerce giant Amazon recently came online. It is nearly five times larger than the second biggest solar farm in Delaware.Two more projects from Connecticut-based Freepoint Solar would even leapfrog Engie’s array if completed, but they have been bogged down by opposition from some farmers and a handful of needed easements. At DEC, 10 acres of solar panels at the Tangent solar energy farm now produces 1.5 megawatts in Hartly as of last year, while the Diamond State solar energy farm will be coming online this fall in Greenwood, adding 4.5 megawatts to the grid.Meanwhile, corporate campuses have also started adding solar arrays to offset their energy usage, with JPMorgan Chase recently putting a 1.3-megawatt array online at its Fairfax area campus. Bank of America is planning the same at its Pike Creek campus and AstraZeneca is doing likewise at its Glasgow production plant.The approval of community solar projects after years of advocacy also opens new opportunity for essentially crowd-funding mid-sized solar arrays that could more quickly expand the state's capacity for solar power.Through June, Delaware has created 258 megawatts of solar power production capacity, ranking it 39th for total capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That’s a 77% growth from 2020, but with a projected growth up to 724 megawatts in five years, Delaware ranks only 43rd among states by SEIA estimates.While Delaware's low overall elevation means it won't likely see the development of onshore wind farms, the possibility of offshore wind farms remains. Maryland and New Jersey have embraced the opportunity, authorizing Atlantic Ocean farms in federal waters, but Delaware has yet to approve such a measure. Gov. Carney recently directed the state to once again study the feasibility of offshore wind in Delaware, but it remains a controversial development in the state's coastal communities, with many believing it would be detrimental to state tourism efforts.