Solar energy is on the rise in the United States, and one jurisdiction in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been named a leader in the solar energy revolution.
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According to a report released by Environment America, Delaware is one of the ten states that have installed the greatest amount of solar energy capacity per capita. At 82 watts per person, the state is in seventh place.
Since December 2008, Delaware has expanded its solar capacity from 2 to 59 megawatts. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the state has installed 1,600 solar energy systems on government buildings, businesses, schools and homes. What's driving this effort? Legislation, policies and financial incentives that support going solar.
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Solar energy uses the sun as fuel to create heat or electricity. It’s considered cleaner than coal- or natural gas-fired power plants because it doesn’t burn fossil fuels, which can release emissions that contribute to climate change.
Like other states in Environment America’s top ten, Delaware’s interconnection policies make it easier for individuals and companies to connect their solar energy systems to the power grid. Solar rebates and other financing options help lower the cost of installation, while "net metering" policies compensate consumers for the excess energy they return. The solar market is also moving forward in response to Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for the state to draw 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, with at least 3.5 percent coming from solar.
“Encouraging solar power is the right thing to do for the environment and our economy,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in a media release. “We are aggressively working toward a clean energy future in Delaware, demonstrating we can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment. That means creating a robust market for solar and other clean energy systems, creating clean energy jobs, expanding our solar industry and improving air quality.”
Two additional watershed jurisdictions received special mention in Environment America’s report: New York, whose solar energy market is growing quickly, and the District of Columbia, where new clean energy policies are set to make solar more attractive and accessible to consumers.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed Clean Power Plan this week, which EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called a “vital piece” of President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution and slow the effects of climate change.
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The Clean Power Plan aims to lower carbon emissions from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels. According to the EPA, this would also cut emissions of particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide more than 25 percent, lowering asthma attacks and medical bills and working toward justice for the low-income communities that are hardest hit by air pollution.
Fossil-fueled power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, accounting for one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Left unchecked, carbon pollution leads to rising temperatures and sea levels and changes in weather patterns, ecosystems and habitats. It also worsens smog, which affects the heart and lung health of children, older adults and people living in poverty.
“This is about protecting our health and our homes,” McCarthy said in a speech celebrating the plan’s release.
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The plan would give states the freedom to chart their own course toward their own goals. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” McCarthy said. Instead, states can “mix and match” methods of electricity production—whether it is a low-carbon or “no” carbon source like nuclear, wind or solar energy—and pollution control policies to ensure a “smooth transition to cleaner power.”
Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register. The EPA will host public hearings on the plan in Denver, Atlanta, the District of Columbia and Pittsburgh during the week of July 28, and will finalize the plan next June.
Homegrown energy could reduce millions of pounds of nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay’s streams, creeks and rivers and create more than 18,000 jobs in the region, according to a new report released by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Chesapeake Biofuel Policies: Balancing Energy, Economy and Environment points out three major benefits of producing “next-generation biofuels” – energy derived from plant materials – in the Chesapeake region:
The team of scientists, economists and other experts who wrote the report predict that by 2020, the region could produce 500 million gallons of biofuels per year, using only land and practices that improve the health of the Bay and its network of local waterways.
“A next-generation biofuels industry can create major advances for the Bay region in economic growth, renewable energy produced sustainably right here at home, and improve water quality by reducing runoff to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the only full-time farmer in the Maryland General Assembly.
Over the past three years, Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission have worked to position the Chesapeake region as a national leader in the evolution to sustainable advanced biofuels. Two previous Chesapeake Bay Commission reports released in 2007 and 2008 set the stage for regional biofuel production by presenting scientific information and policy recommendations on next-generation biofuels.
Chesapeake Biofuel Policies presents several recommendations from a select Biofuels Advisory Panel:
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website to download the full report.