WILMINGTON (March 26, 2015) –Wilmington again has been named one of the nation’s “Solar Stars” – among the top cities in the U.S. for solar energy. In the report, Shining Cities – Harnessing the Benefits of Solar Energy in America, released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center, Wilmington is ranked 1st in the South Atlantic region and 5th among cities nationwide for solar capacity per capita in 2014. This year marks the second year in a row that Wilmington has been cited as a top U.S. city for solar power.
According to the report, Wilmington has more solar panels per capita than any other major city in the South Atlantic region, with 101 watts per person installed. Honolulu, Indianapolis, San Jose, and San Diego topped the list of most solar power per person, with Wilmington coming in 5th place nationwide. Of the 70 American cities in nearly every state that were examined for solar power installations, Wilmington had enough solar energy online at the end of last year to fully power nearly 750 homes.
This report attributes Wilmington’s ranking to the city’s leadership and commitment to solar power, along with crediting Delaware’s energy legislation and strong public policies, support from federal programs and innovative financing options for the city’s growth in solar power.
“Delaware is aggressively working toward a clean energy future and demonstrating that we can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment,” said Governor Jack Markell. “By creating a robust market for solar and other clean energy systems, we are supporting clean energy jobs, expanding our solar industry and improving air quality by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”
City of Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams said solar power has grown exponentially in Wilmington in part due to the nearly 200 solar energy systems that have been installed on businesses, schools, homes and government buildings, including the City’s two significant projects – the 526 kilowatt (kW) solar array at the Porter Water Filtration Plant and the 347 kW system on the William J. Turner Municipal Complex.
“The City of Wilmington’s solar power usage reflects our community’s strong commitment to integrating solar technology across a variety of platforms,” said Mayor Williams. “Expanding our use of solar and other renewable energy sources will positively impact public health and environmental quality, strengthen the economy and develop more reliable energy sources.”
Wilmington’s growth in solar capacity has been substantial. From December 2008 to 2014, the city’s solar capacity grew from 0.5 megawatts (MW) to 7 MW – a 14-fold increase (1,400 percent). Wilmington’s 7 MW of solar capacity eliminates about 3,800 tons of carbon dioxide gas annually that leads to global warming.
DNREC Secretary David Small said the report confirms the progress Delaware has made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through investments in renewable energy sources. “By working closely with the local solar industry and adopting progressive policies and programs that support energy efficiency and renewable energy, new solar installations have increased statewide by 30 times – from 2 megawatts (MW) in 2008 to more than 60 MW today. Environmentally, these investments are improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of Delaware’s climate change strategy,” said Sec. Small.
An important component in Delaware's success in promoting solar energy has been the development of a market for long-term contracts for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), which helps utilities meet their obligation to obtain a portion of their electricity from solar power. Working closely with the State’s Renewable Energy Task Force and Delmarva Power and Light, Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) has helped create a stable market for new solar power projects in Delaware by conducting auctions for long term SREC contracts on behalf of Delmarva Power. Delmarva Power buys most of its SRECs through this long-term contracting mechanism, which makes it easier to finance new projects of all sizes. As a result of competition and market efficiencies, installation costs and corresponding SREC prices have fallen sharply in the last two years, which means much lower compliance costs for ratepayers.
As a result of those policies, electric customers have lower energy compliance costs. Senator Harris McDowell III authored legislation establishing the Renewable Portfolio Standard (25 percent of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energy sources by 2025), the solar “carve out” (3.5 percent from solar by 2025) and the law authorizing the SREC program.
Harris McDowell also authored the legislation creating the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) which has offered a number of programs to incentivize solar power.
“The SEU’s role in encouraging solar development in Delaware has been significant and includes managing Delaware’s SREC auction, buying and banking SREC’s to encourage the market, and providing low interest loans to solar developers,” said McDowell, who was a co-creator of the SEU and currently serves as its chairman. “For example, last year the SEU financed a $499,000 loan for a 205 kW ground mounted solar array in Wilmington.”
Delmarva Power's next procurement program for 20-year SREC contracts, managed in collaboration with the SEU will run April 13 - 24. To learn more about SRECs or to sell or submit a bid, visit SRECDelaware.com.
To view Environment America’s report, visit their website by clicking http://www.environmentamericacenter.org/
For more information on solar technology and funding for renewable energy systems, visit the Delaware Division of Energy & Climate’s website, http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy/Pages/default.aspx.