It wasn’t that long ago that Dover’s city-owned electric system and adjacent businesses were getting electricity from coal at the Dover Energy Center. power and steam plant.
Now, the municipal utility is planning to buy power from two projects that will sharply increase the amount of solar power generated in the state.
Delaware Public Media and other outlets reported this month that Dover plans to buy electricity from jumbo-sized arrays in Townsend and Harrington that will be developed by Freepoint Solar. The projected price tag – $160 million.
The Townsend solar project alone will be nearly eight times larger than the largest solar farm now in operation near Milford. It will also generate more electricity than the above-mentioned Energy Center, which was converted from a combination of natural gas and coal to natural gas onlyin 2013.
The Dover power plant is operated by NRG, which has the state’s last coal-fired unit in Millsboro, At one time, Delaware had 10 coal-fired plants scattered around the state.
Dover is happy with the solar options, despite a history of coal generation, since the cost of sun-fueled power has dropped sharply in recent years.
Dover won’t be buying all of the power from the two solar arrays. However, Freepoint should have little trouble finding interested parties. Delaware is under a mandate that requires 25 percent of the electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Most of that green power will come from wind farms and solar arrays outside the state.
What happens after the sun goes down or during the overcast periods we saw today? The Dover area is also the site of the Starwood (formerly Calpine) natural gas-fired generation plant.
Even with this ramp-up of solar, only a tiny fraction of the state’s electricity will come from the sun.
Advocates of a Delaware with less reliance on outside power sources have argued for offshore wind and/or more gas-fueled generators like the massive Wildcat Point site west of Newark in Cecil County, MD. Wildcat Point supplies power for cooperatives including Greenwood-based Delaware Electric.
Small nuclear power plants could also be in the mix as the shift away from coal continues, but don’t hold your breath on that one given the costs and views on nukes.
The limited amount of real estate suited for solar will be a limiting factor when it comes to utility solar in Delaware. But don’t be surprised if we see a few more extra-large arrays emerge. You can also expect some neighborhood opposition over the visual impact along with some unfounded claims about cancer.
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