DNREC Seeks Contractor Applications for Solar Pilot Program

An installer outfits a residence with solar panels


Two-Year Program Targets Low- to Moderate-Income Households

Low- to moderate-income homeowners who have found installation of solar panels beyond their reach could get assistance with a pilot program expected to launch next year.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is requesting applications from contractors to participate in the program. Applications are due by January 21, 2022.

The 2-year pilot program expects to serve at least 50 clients per year.

Solar panels
Solar panels

The pilot program seeks to test expansion of residential solar Photovoltaic systems into the low- to moderate-income market segments, which have been underserved by existing renewable energy assistance programs. Experience acquired by the Department during the pilot program will be used develop a statewide solar program that will provide services to low- to moderate-income homes regardless of electric utility service territory.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through transitioning to cleaner energy sources is a key component of Delaware’s Climate Action Plan,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Unfortunately, for some families, installing solar panels is outside their budget. This pilot program will help us identify the best ways to help low- and moderate-income families make the switch.”

Selected qualified contractors will be required to also apply through the Green Energy Program for approval as a participating contractor as a condition of participating in the pilot program. The Green Energy Program provides grants and incentives to promote the use of renewable energy in Delaware.

The DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy, which is overseeing the program, will provide a list of low-income clients eligible for the pilot program that have recently received services through the DNREC Weatherization Assistance Program. Under the terms of the Request For Qualifications, selected contractors are required provide information in their proposal indicating how they would market to and recruit moderate income households.

Funding for the program will come from the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Green Energy Fund.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy uses science, education, policy development and incentives to address Delaware’s climate, energy and coastal challenges. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Michael Globetti, Michael.globetti@delaware.gov or Jim Lee, JamesW.Lee@delaware.gov.


Delaware middle school students enjoy hands-on renewable energy experience with DNREC-sponsored Junior Solar Sprint

HARRINGTON – Gauger-Cobbs Middle School of Newark and W.T. Chipman Middle School of Harrington claimed the checkered flag today as 24 teams of middle school students from 14 schools across the state vied for honors in the Junior Solar Sprint, a competition in which students build and race solar-powered model cars. DNREC’s Division of Energy & Climate teamed up with the Delaware Technology Student Association to organize this year’s event at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.

Over the past few months, students worked with classmates and teacher advisors to build model cars powered by solar photovoltaic cells, or solar panels. Today, their work paid off as racers competed for top speed in time trials, as well as for awards in engineering design and creative design. And in the process of putting their cars into the Junior Solar Sprint competition they also got a better grasp of what solar technology can mean for their future.

“Solar technology allows us to harness the sun’s abundant energy for a clean, lasting power source,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Junior Solar Sprint challenges students to think about ways solar energy plays a larger role in our lives by providing electricity for our everyday energy needs. Delaware has over 4,000 solar energy systems across the state, powering homes, houses of worship, public buildings, farms and businesses. Solar and other forms of clean energy enable Delawareans to achieve a better quality of life by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping protect our environment.”

The Junior Solar Sprint competition is part of a national program sponsored by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program. It encourages students to engage in problem-solving, teamwork, and creative scientific thinking to solve environmental challenges. DNREC has participated in Junior Solar Sprint for more than 20 years. This year’s event was in conjunction with the Delaware Technology Student Association 2017 State Conference, which drew several hundred students to compete in various science and technology challenges.

Participating schools in this year’s Junior Solar Sprint were MOT Charter Middle School, Middletown; Fred Fifer Middle School, Camden; W.T. Chipman Middle School, Harrington; Providence Creek Academy, Clayton; Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Wilmington; P.S. duPont Middle School, Wilmington; Holy Cross School, Dover; Sanford School, Hockessin; Springer Middle School, Wilmington; Postlethwait Middle School, Camden; Beacon Middle School, Lewes; Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, Newark; H.B. DuPont Middle School, Hockessin, and Alfred G. Waters Middle School, Middletown.

2017 Junior Solar Sprint Competition results

All-around winners for combined speed, design, and presentation:

  • 1st place: Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, Car #2
  • 2nd place: Springer Middle School, Car #7
  • 3rd place: W.T. Chipman Middle School, Car #14

Top five teams in time-trial races:

  • 1st place: Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, Car #3
  • 2nd place: Springer Middle School, Car #7
  • 3rd place: Springer Middle School, Car #8
  • 4th place: W.T. Chipman Middle School, Car #15
  • 5th place: W.T. Chipman Middle School, Car #14

Top five teams in creative design:

  • 1st place: W.T. Chipman Middle School, Car #14
  • 2nd place: Springer Middle School, Car #8
  • 3rd place: Sanford School, Car #19
  • 4th place: Holy Cross Middle School, Car #21
  • 5th place: Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Car #11

For more information on renewable energy programs administered by the Delaware Division of Energy & Climate, please visit the Division of Energy & Climate website. For a close-up of the Junior Solar Sprint competition, please view a video on DNREC’s Facebook page.

Media contact: Elizabeth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 46, No. 90


DNREC Division of Energy & Climate offers tips for homeowners considering solar lease or power purchase agreements

DOVER – Over the past three years, the number of Delaware homeowners installing solar panels through a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) has increased significantly. These are popular financing options for homeowners who are interested in installing clean energy solar panels without paying significant upfront costs or claiming ownership of the system.

In both a solar lease and PPA agreement, the solar installer usually pays to install and maintain the system, and has ownership of the system equipment. In return, the homeowner pays for use of the system in one of two ways: a monthly lease payment, or a power purchase agreement (PPA) in which the homeowner pays a specific rate for the electricity that is generated each month.

In 2015, more than 70 percent of residential solar projects installed in Delaware used solar lease or PPA agreements. With the rapid expansion of these types of projects in Delaware, DNREC’s Division of Energy & Climate has developed the following guidance for homeowners to consider prior to signing a lease or PPA contract.

Thoroughly familiarize yourself with terms of the contract. Most contracts are for a 20-year period, so don’t sign anything until you understand and are comfortable with all of the terms and conditions. Make sure the contract is not missing something that you expected or that the solar company discussed with you – get all terms and agreements in writing. Get a second opinion on any elements of the contract with which you aren’t comfortable.

Understand the system maintenance requirements and your responsibilities during the contract period. Clarify whether maintenance costs will fall on you, or will be the responsibility of the company.

Understand the full cost of your lease or PPA over the life of the contract, including fees or price increases that may occur during the contract period and annual escalators. Lease contracts should clearly list the monthly payment that will be due each month during your contract. A PPA agreement should include the rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) for your entire contract. Many contracts include an annual escalator which increases your monthly payment or price per kWh by a set percent each year of the contract. If the annual escalator is set at a rate that increases faster than the price of electricity from your power company, the power from your solar panels could become more expensive than traditional electricity during your contract period.

Know the current price per kWh that you pay for electricity. You can gather this information by looking at your energy bill or by contacting your electricity provider.

Make sure your proposed solar contract and estimated savings are calculated using your actual cost of electricity, and not a statewide average or estimated electric rate. Electric rates vary significantly by utility company in Delaware. Be wary of high annual electric cost increase estimates that may be used in contracts to make the lease or PPA agreement seem more attractive.

Ask your prospective contractor to explain what incentives they will be claiming and how these incentives were factored into the proposed lease or PPA cost. Consider all of the tax credits, state grants and other incentives available for solar installations. Under most lease and PPA contracts, these incentives are awarded to the solar company, not the homeowner. Currently, available incentives for solar include:

  • Federal tax credit – currently 30 percent of project costs
  • State grants – vary by electric company. See de.gov/greenenergy to confirm what is available for your project.
  • Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) – These credits can be sold at SREC procurement auctions or exchanged for an upfront rebate via the Sustainable Energy Utility’s SREC Purchase Program. One SREC is generated by your system for every 1,000 kWh hours it produces. See srectrade.com or www.greengrantdelaware.com for more information about these options.

Shop around – get quotes from two or three Delaware solar installers and compare costs before committing.

Consider the pros and cons of owning a system versus leasing or entering into a PPA. While owning a system requires upfront investment, the system will likely pay for itself in a matter of years. Currently, customer-owned residential solar projects in Delaware have an average payback period of only seven years. Homeowners who own their solar system only pay for the difference of the energy they use and the energy they produce, meaning the homeowner will pay significantly less for each energy bill, and may even gather credits to cover other months if their system produces more than the home needs. Over time, the homeowner will save more money in energy costs than they spent on purchasing and installing the system. Most solar panels have a standard 20-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Evaluate whether your finances, coupled with current tax credits and incentives, could make purchasing a system a more attractive option. Low-interest loans may also be available for renewable energy projects, including solar, which could enable you to pay for a system without a lease or PPA contract.

The Delaware Green Energy Program maintains a list of solar installers that offer both customer-owned and lease/PPA systems. Visit de.gov/greenenergy for more information.

Ask the solar company about any liens or fixture filings that may be placed on your home when you sign a solar lease or PPA contract. These may create unanticipated barriers to refinancing your home, taking out a home equity loan or even selling your house. Make sure any liens or fixture filings are fully described in your contract and you understand and are comfortable with all of the implications.

Understand and be sure you’re comfortable with the contract terms that may impact your ability to sell your home during the contract period. Many contracts require the buyer of your home to agree to take over your remaining lease payments or PPA contract terms and also meet certain credit requirements. If a buyer does not agree to transfer the lease or PPA into their name or does not meet the solar company’s credit requirements, you may be required to pre-pay the remaining cost of the contract prior to selling your home.

Consider how a solar system may impact roof repairs or replacement – lease and PPA contracts usually include charges for removing and re-installing the solar panels. Additionally, most lease agreements require you to continue making regular lease payments while the roof is being repaired, even if your solar panels will not produce electricity during this time. Consider making roof repairs prior to installing solar panels.

Be wary of high pressure sales tactics and attempts to pressure you into signing a contract before you fully consider all of your options and are able to finish “doing your homework.”

Ask what companies, if any, the solar contractor will be subcontracting with during the installation of your panels. Ask for business license numbers and professional license information for the electricians who will be working on your installation. Make sure your contracting company and any subcontractors have positive ratings on the Better Business Bureau website.

A solar energy system is a great investment that will lower your carbon footprint and environmental impact, and can save you a lot of money on your monthly energy bill. Lease or power purchase agreements can be beneficial for homeowners who want to contribute to clean energy growth, but may not have the upfront capital, while purchasing a system allows a homeowner to enjoy the benefits and cost savings of solar power without a middleman. Whether you decide to lease or purchase a system, well-informed research will help you make the right decision for your situation.

Solar Energy in Delaware
Solar energy capacity in Delaware has increased by about 3,000 percent since 2008, from 2.3 MW capacity to 71.8 MW capacity. Solar farms across the state power homes, schools and businesses without producing the pollutants generated from fossil fuels that threaten our public health, air quality and vibrant natural resources. Renewable energy systems including solar energy allow Delawareans to achieve the quality of life they desire while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our environment. For more information on renewable energy in Delaware, visit de.gov/greenenergy.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 46, No. 155

Delaware Electric Cooperative to Build State-of-the-Art Solar Park

Delaware Electric Co-OpGREENWOOD, Del.- Delaware Electric Cooperative will soon break ground on a four megawatt solar park in Sussex County, Delaware. Twenty acres of solar panels will be installed near Georgetown, capable of producing enough energy to power 500 homes. The park could eventually be expanded to 40 acres with the ability to produce eight megawatts of power.

The solar park is being developed by SunEdison and will help DEC meet the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards, which require utilities to generate or purchase 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. The power generated by the facility will offset energy purchases from the wholesale market.

The construction of the solar project is expected to cost approximately $14 million and could be completed by early 2013. The project is not expected to have an immediate impact on member rates.

Motech Solar PanelAccording to Bill Andrew, President and CEO of DEC, “We are dedicated to providing the highest value to our members while building the park at the lowest possible cost. The park will feed power directly to the Co-op’s electric distribution system.”

The Co-op is also proud to announce that Delaware labor and products manufactured in the First State will be used to build the solar park. The solar panels will be purchased from Motech Americas in Newark, Delaware and the construction of the facility will create 40 temporary jobs.

“We are pleased that DEC is supporting the renewable energy economy right here in Delaware by providing its members locally produced, renewable energy from a source that has been producing solar modules right here in Delaware for the last 20 years,” stated Derick Botha, Vice President of Motech Americas. “DEC is fostering green jobs in Delaware and giving back to the community by supporting the local economy and we are proud to be the provider of choice.”

“Delaware Electric Cooperative is committed to using Delaware workers and solar panels made in the state. This park will provide a much needed economic boost to Delaware,” said Andrew.

Governor Jack Markell has thrown his support behind the project, which promises to offer environmentally friendly energy to southern Delaware.

Motech Solar Panels“The new solar park makes a smart investment in the community,” said Governor Jack Markell. “It puts people to work building and installing clean energy technology which provides jobs, benefits the environment and helps to grow the clean technology industry.”

Groundbreaking for the project is expected to be held this spring.

Delaware Electric Cooperative is a member-owned electric utility serving 84,000 member-owners in Kent and Sussex County, Delaware. For more information visit us on the web at www.delaware.coop or www.beatthepeak.coop or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Governor Markell Cuts the Ribbon on Solar Power System for Belvedere Fire Company in Wilmington

DNREC LogoWILMINGTON – Governor Jack Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara joined a group of Delaware solar companies and volunteer firefighters this morning to cut the ribbon for a new 50 kilowatt solar power system on the Belvedere Fire Company’s Fire Hall in Wilmington. Built from Delaware-manufactured components by Delaware contractors, the system will save the fire company an estimated one-third of its electric utility costs – approximately $400,000 over the life of the system.

“Belvedere’s volunteer firefighters risk their lives to protect their neighbors. They put all of their energy into their service.” Gov. Markell said. “Local business, government and the community came together to give back, putting solar panels up to help power this fire hall and the work these volunteers do.”

Belvedere’s new solar power system, which was completed in December, will provide 65,000 kilowatts of clean electric power annually – an amount that will off-set 44.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – equivalent to emissions from the annual electric usage of nearly six homes or the annual greenhouse gas emissions of nearly nine passenger vehicles.

“Adding solar power is a great way for a community organization to save on energy costs while reducing pollutants entering and damaging our environment,” said Secretary O’Mara. “This solar power system will be providing clean, renewable, sustainable power to the Belvedere Fire Company at minimal cost and with little maintenance for years to come.”

The idea of solar power for the Belvedere Fire Hall was initially suggested last year by several fire company members who are also employees of Cermet Materials in Wilmington, which manufactures products used in solar panel production. Cermet owners Charlie Falletta and Pansy Tong agreed to help finance the project.

“We are committed to the solar industry, and to supporting the use and growth of solar as a clean, renewable power source,” said Falletta. “This project also allowed us to help out a volunteer group that provides a vital public service to the residents of Wilmington.”

Cermet Materials brought KW Solar Solutions of Newark on board as project manager and installer. Project materials were purchased through United Electric, a Delaware-based electrical supply company in New Castle. The 208 40-watt solar panels that comprise the system were manufactured in Newark by Motech Delaware. Final electrical work was completed by Delaware commercial and residential electrical contractor Nickle Electric Companies of Newark.

Additional funding for the Belvedere Fire Company project came from the Delaware Green Energy Program, administered by the DNREC Division of Energy and Climate. The DGEP provided a grant of $68,400 towards the estimated $273,951 in total project costs.

The Green Energy Program helps Delaware homeowners, businesses and non-profit organizations meet their energy needs in a more sustainable way through the installation of renewable energy systems, including solar, geothermal and wind. Since 1999, the Green Energy Program has supported more than 1,000 renewable energy projects in Delaware.