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Fort Delaware State Park now runs on solar energy

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
Some of the solar arrays at Fort Delaware State Park.

Power at Fort Delaware State Park in Delaware City now comes from hundreds of solar panels rather than an old diesel generator, and is expected to increase efficiency and reduce energy costs at the fort.

Fort Delaware State Park’s old diesel generator was damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

Officials estimate the 540 solar panels donated by New Jersey-based PSEG Power that now line the roof of the fort’s Endicott section will generate 37.5 kilowatts per year to power the entire facility. It will save the state $18,000 to $20,000 in fuel costs a year.

Environmental Program Administrator Matt Chesser says he hopes the quieter energy source will help staff better showcase the Civil War era, without the loud hum of a modern generator.

“It was pretty noticeable on the island,” Chesser said. “Whether you’re here for the historic Civil War piece or you’re here for the heronry or the bird watching, you had that constant invasion of modern technology that you don’t have now.”

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin says for a place that is somewhat isolated, it will give them reliability in an energy source through the year.

“The idea having to ship diesel out and fill up tanks is clearly not beneficial – both with the potential of spills and things that could happen, as well as fossil fuels,” Garvin said.

The Federal  Emergency Management Agency and Delaware Emergency Management Agency provided $94,000 in disaster recovery funding for the construction needed for the installation of the  panels, which were installed in 2017. DNREC’s Division of Energy and Climate provided $180,000.

Staff will use the old generator as part of the visitor experience to show off what used to power the park.

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