Smyrna officials announced last week that construction will soon begin on a 1.5 megawatt solar photovoltaic generation facility that will sit on roughly six acres of land in the Smyrna Business Park on Artisan Drive.

The facility will be adjacent to the Delaware Municipal Electric Cooperation (DEMEC) Beasley Power Station.

The facility will be managed by DEMEC, a public power joint action agency and wholesale electric utility established in 1979 to provide power supply and related services to the nine municipally-owned distribution utilities in the State of Delaware. Smyrna is a founding member of DEMEC.

“Being able to produce solar power locally in Smyrna may ultimately reduce the town’s internal costs of supplying power to our utility customers,” said Smyrna Town Manager Dave Hugg. “We may no longer have to pay as much of the required capacity, transmission, and uplift fees which we currently pay when we take energy from the grid.”

Smyrna Town Council members previously approved the facility in January 2013. At the time, Smyrna Council approved DEMEC’s Renewable Portfolio Standard compliance plan as well as the approval for the town to enter into a lease agreement that will enable DEMEC to use the land for the solar facility. The RPS Compliance Plan is a state-mandate geared towards more green energy use.

The town will not be responsible for operations or maintenance of the facility.

“DEMEC has made significant long-term investments in Renewable Energy. DEMEC has invested over $100 million in the development of a large portfolio of qualifying renewable energy generation resources to achieve the lowest possible compliance cost. Of the 58.3 megawatt of installed or committed solar generation resources in Delaware, a majority (31.2 megawatt, or 53 percent of the total) is installed in DEMEC municipal service territories. This becomes an even more striking statistic when you consider DEMEC municipal service territories make up less than 15 percent of electric service in the entire state,” said DEMEC Energy Services Manager Scott Lynch.

The six acre parcel where the proposed solar facility will be built is currently a vacant grassy lot requiring property maintenance by town staff. The new facility will reduce town staff maintenance costs and will generate a modest rental income for the town.

Construction is scheduled to begin later this summer with completion by early 2015. Every attempt will be made to hire Delaware-based firms to construct the facility.

Hugg said last week via an email that the cost of the project won’t be announced until negotiations are complete, but DEMEC customers will pay for the cost through a debt service charge shared among members.

Originally the DEMEC lease was expected to be for 20 years and $156,000; however, Hugg said the lease terms may slightly change. He said the lease will likely be for 25 years.

Hugg said use of the solar facilities will help reduce demand during times of heaviest use and prices, resulting in reduced prices for DEMEC and its members.

“Any savings provided to DEMEC due to lower wholesale costs would be passed back to the member municipalities and could be then passed back to retail customers,” Hugg said.