Delaware just made it easier for Delmarva Power customers to use solar energy, save money
Delaware has made it easier to use solar energy through Delmarva Power, which advocates say can save you money.
Gov. John Carney on Friday signed Senate Bill 2, which is expected to make it simpler for Delaware residents to use solar energy to power their homes through a new community-centered program scheduled to start next year.
To participate, customers can get credit on their electric bills by subscribing to a centrally located local community solar project, which can be cheaper than paying to install solar panels on their roofs.
The solar program isn't up and running yet because the state won't start accepting applications to build the facilities until next spring at the earliest. The Public Service Commission has to create official rules and regulations for the program by March.
Community-owned solar generation facilities have been legal in Delaware since 2010, but included some legal barriers such as requiring the facility to identify all of its customers before being built.
The bill by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, a Democrat from Middletown, removed some of those barriers to make it easier for people to take advantage of the fast-growing industry. Delaware hasn't had the facilities in the past because the laws weren't set up to accommodate them, Hansen said.
The bill specifically changes regulations for solar facilities that will connect through Delmarva Power, the most prominent energy company in the state.
"We had only two very tiny little community solar projects in all of Delmarva Power's territory, and we determined that the reason for that was that we really didn't have a functional program," Hansen said.
It's hard to say how much money a solar customer can expect to save on their energy bill because it will depend on the size and number of people using their particular solar system, but customers can "certainly" expect it will cut costs, Hansen said.
It's also unclear exactly where the facilities will be built and could depend on local zoning laws.
But once facility owners get the green light, Delaware can expect to see the solar panel facilities popping up in open lands like Brownfield sites, undeveloped fields, or on top of parking lots or landfills, according to Hansen.
"I suspect we'll begin to see a number of community solar projects, as well as larger commercial-scale projects," she said. "We know that there is a line of folks that are ready to do them."
The bill expands the size limit for the solar projects from two megawatts to four. Four megawatts can power about 1,000 homes and is more economically feasible, though Delaware's utility companies are still trying to figure out if the state's power grid is modernized enough to handle an influx of new energy generators, according to Hansen.
The facilities also have to verify that at least 15% of its customers are low-income, according to the new law.
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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.