Delaware solar projects saving costs for small town and a local fire company

Energy savings are expected to amount to tens of thousands of dollars over the years for a local fire company and a small northern Delaware town, both of which have gone solar.

The Belvedere Fire Company Wednesday celebrated the installation of a 50-kilowatt rooftop solar power system.  Fire Company President Keith Harmon estimated that the system will cut the volunteer force’s electric costs by one-third, resulting in $400,000 in savings over 25 years. 

“We have a lot of hall rentals and things like that, a lot of events which use a lot of energy throughout the firehouse,” Harmon said. 

Several Belvedere Fire Company members who work with local manufacturer Cermet Materials suggested the idea several years ago.  The fire company project received $68,400 from the Delaware Green Energy Program through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.  The project cost a total of nearly $274,000.  Additionally, Cermet worked with other local companies such as KW Solar Solutions, United Electric, Motech Delaware and Nickle Electric Companies. 

“Adding solar power is a great way for a community organization to save on energy costs while reducing pollutants entering and damaging our environment,” DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara said.  Reliance on solar power by the Belvedere Fire Company is expected to offset 44.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The nearby town of Newport held a celebration of its own Wednesday to highlight its solar initiative.  Newport received about $107,000 in grant funding from the Delaware Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, part of which funded a six-kilowatt rooftop solar system at the town administration building.

“Municipal buildings, town halls, court houses, fire stations, schools, homes in small towns such as this – and in big cities everywhere – are being upgraded to reduce energy waste,” U.S Department of Energy Project Officer Tweedie Doe said.  “The cumulative effect of all this work is consequential to the environment as well as our energy economy.”

Mayor Michael Spencer estimated that Newport could save $60,000 or more annually by using solar power and through weatherization improvements at another facility – Old Town Hall.

“We’ve been wanting to do something like this probably for the better part of eight or ten years,” Spencer said.  He also added that similar to Belvedere’s project, Newport relied upon local companies and local workers for the design and installation work.

O’Mara said over the years, it’s become just as important – maybe more so – to make an “economic case” for such investments, as well as an environmental case.

“Folks that are able to make that case are the businesses that are doing very well right now, and I think that’s the way we’re going to continue growing jobs in the state,” O’Mara said.

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