Delaware announces 41 block grants for solar projects

On March 2, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara announced energy efficiency block grants, including grants for photovoltaic projects, to 21 municipalities in Sussex County. It marks the third such announcement in two weeks.

The grants are supported by the statewide Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECGB).

Awards to Delaware’s other two counties Kent and New Castle were announced back-to-back on Feb. 24 and 25, respectively. In all, $5.46 million in federal-grant funding was made available to municipalities throughout the state in grants that ranged between $10,000 and $500,000 in size.

The grants are funded through $3.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for states to provide grants to municipality projects that reduce fossil fuel energy use and lower emissions by using renewable energy, according to Delaware’s Energy Office.

While every state received some of the federal money for their municipalities, O’Mara said Delaware did things differently.

“We decided every small community was going to receive some of the grant money. We required every small municipality to conduct an energy audit,” he said. The grants were then used first for energy efficiency projects. “Once you’ve made those investments, we’ll give you grants for renewables.”

The state also recently announced a series of solar installations at wastewater-treatment facilities.

“We’re really trying to show this intersection, between energy efficiency, conservation and waste treatment,” O’Mara said. “Some of the solar is developed in Delaware. We want to make a case for as much manufacturing as possible here. We want to maximize the economic benefit of the clean energy enterprise.”

Projects supported by the grants are expected to save the counties a total of $365,000 in annual energy costs. Sussex County will save the most—$250,000 annually. Kent County will save $45,000 annually and New Castle County will save $70,000 annually.

Projects supported in Sussex County include heating and cooling efficiency upgrades, energy-efficient lighting retrofits, window upgrades, insulation additions, pump upgrades, solar-energy installations and a white roof project.

Camden, in Kent County, will use its block grant award to install a photovoltaic system on the Camden-Wyoming Fire Hall and a solar power system on its municipal building. The grants will also support lighting improvements and HVAC upgrades at the municipal building, the energy office said. It estimated that the improvements will save more than $6,000 in annual energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 29.7 metric tons.

The federal funding is fully used now, but the state is taking steps to reinvest some of the grant monies.

“We have some other great projects around performance contracting for smaller municipalities,” O’Mara said. “We set aside a portion of the savings from these projects to create kind of a revolving loan fund to support other [renewable developments].”

Pictured: The Leipsic Fire Hall's PV installation, courtesy of the Delaware Energy Office.