Milford soon will be home to Delaware’s largest solar field

Milford will be home to Delaware’s largest solar field – and one of the biggest on the East Coast – when work is completed on an 80-acre array currently under construction off of Milford-Harrington Highway.

“I don’t know if people know what’s going on over there or, if they do, just how big it’s going to be,” City Manager Richard Carmean said this week. “It’s really going to be something and we’re excited to have this project here in Milford.”

The $50 million project is owned by PSEG Solar Source, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), which purchased it from the Colorado-based solar energy company Juwi Solar on Sept 24. Juwi will continue to oversee the construction project and will be responsible for operation and maintenance services once the solar field is complete.

The project is piggybacking off of the city’s substation project, which also is currently under construction behind the Haven Lake Animal Hospital.

As early as Jan. 1, 2013, the PSEG Milford Solar Farm will begin supplying power directly to a pair of new city-owned transformers being installed at the same location to provide power to the western end of Milford. From there, the 12 megawatts of AC power produced by the solar field will be distributed into the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation’s power grid for use by the company’s nine municipal members, including Milford.

“We welcome PSEG Solar Source to Delaware, creating jobs and clean energy for our state,” Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement released by PSEG. “Through the innovative partnership between DEMEC, the Town of Milford, and PSEG, the Milford Solar Farm joins more than 30 megawatts of other solar installations in Delaware, making our state a national leader in solar deployment per capita.”

Last week, about 30 workers from Juwi Solar and its subcontractors began grading the property and preparing for the arrival of 62,000 solar panels, each of which will measure 3-feet-by-5-feet.

At the height of the construction project, more than 100 people will be on site installing the panels, which are expected to begin arriving sometime next week.

Those workers are racing to complete the Milford Solar Farm before Dec. 31, when various federal and state tax credits and other financial incentives will begin to expire.

“The project will continue to move forward regardless of whether we meet that deadline,” said Mark Marion, Juwi Solar’s director of engineering and project management. “It just means that if it’s half done, we’ll only get half the benefit [from those incentives].”

The Milford Solar Farm is the fifth project Juwi has built for PSEG Solar Source. The power company also owns solar fields of various sizes in Arizona, Ohio, Florida and New Jersey.

“We tend to look for projects that have a good long-term commitment from an off-taker, or the people buying the power, in states with strong energy policies where there is also strong support from the local community,” said PSEG Solar Source spokesman Paul Rosengren. “This project had all of those things, and we’re looking forward to turning out electricity in Milford for at least the next 20 to 30 years.”

Once the construction project is complete, the solar field will be barely noticeable to most Milford residents, according to city officials.

The site will be staffed by security personnel, but no other workers will be assigned to the property, outside of local grounds crews who will be hired to maintain the property on semi-monthly basis, Marion said.

“It’s my understanding that once the field is up and running, it will generate no more noise than a refrigerator,” Carmean added.