A New Castle County code change could have major implications for solar power in the First State.
The county has changed its code to allow commercial solar farms to be built outside of industrial zones. They can be built in other zones as long as they are 50 feet from a property line, 150 feet away from homes and surrounded by a minimum amount of vegetation.
County Executive Matt Meyer said the new rules will allow more solar companies to come forward to build in New Castle County, giving the county a huge advantage.
"Those looking to build solar fields across the country will find that New Castle County is a premier place for building your solar industry — your next solar generating facility," Meyer said.
Now, Connecticut-based Freepoint Solar is stepping forward with a plan to buy almost 500 acres of land in Southern New Castle and Kent counties for several solar farms. Peter Ford, the company's managing director, said the project would produce 100 megawatts of solar energy. The arrays would be spread out over multiple sites.
"The penetration of natural gas, coal and oil plants as our primary generators is 100 years old and many of the coal and oil plants are 50 plus years old," Ford said. "Renewable power — particularly on the East Coast — is a great application to promote renewable energy."
The project would more than double the state's solar energy capacity, which is at 91 megawatts.
Freepoint Solar expects to start construction in early 2019.
Delaware Sierra Club has shown support in New Castle County's code change and Freepoint Solar stepping forward. Stephanie Herron, the volunteer and outreach coordinator, said she hopes it could encourage Kent and Sussex Counties to take a look at their ordinances to see how they could better promote and incentivize solar.
"If we can create more power here in Delaware, we'll be much more efficient...We will save air pollution, save money and create jobs," Herron said.