Delaware is located on the Delmarva Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay to the east and Maryland to the west and south. At only about 100 miles in length and 30 miles in width, it is the second-smallest state in the nation. Most of Delaware’s population is concentrated in the northern part of the state near its borders with densely populated New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. Delaware is largely flat coastal plain; only the extreme northern portion of the state, on the west side of the Delaware River, has hills. The Fall Line, a narrow zone where rapids and waterfalls are common, separates Delaware’s hills from the coastal plain. Early settlers used the energy generated from the falls in northern Delaware to power their mills. Delaware has no fossil fuel resources, but it does have some renewable resources including solar and wind, and landfill gas is being used for electricity generation at several locations.
Financial services contribute more to Delaware’s gross state product than any other industry.
Because Delaware has few energy resources, energy consumption in the state is much greater than energy production. Even so, Delaware’s total energy consumption is among the lowest in the nation because of its small population (less than 1 million), its relatively mild ocean-moderated climate, and its focus on financial services as the major industry. Financial services, including insurance and real estate, contribute more to the gross state product than any other industry. The state’s major agricultural activity is poultry farming, and broilers (young chickens) are the largest contributor to the state’s farm income. Although the state’s total energy use is low, Delaware has a higher energy use per capita than almost half of the states, in part because of its energy-intensive food-processing, petroleum refining, and chemical and plastics manufacturing industries. The industrial sector is the largest energy-consuming sector in the state.
Biomass and solar energy are the primary renewable energy resources used to generate electricity in Delaware, contributing about 2% of the state’s net generation.Additionally, some Delaware households use renewable resources for home heating; about 1% use wood for heat and a smaller number (less than 0.1%) of Delaware homes use solar energy for heating. Three utility-scale power plants in Delaware use landfill gas. Those plants have net summer generating capacities of up to 5 megawatts. Solar photovoltaic (PV) generation occurs at more than a half dozen utility-scale facilities, the largest of which has a net summer capacity of almost 12 megawatts.
Delaware has little wind resource potential onshore, but the first and only onshore utility-scale wind turbine in the state was installed in 2010 at the University of Delaware. In 2010, the U.S. Department of the Interior began issuing requests for interest in the development of offshore wind farms off the coast of Delaware and other Mid-Atlantic States. In the fall of 2012, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a lease for the commercial development of offshore wind on the Atlantic Continental Shelf off the coast of Delaware. However, that project was cancelled, and the 2-megawatt onshore wind turbine continues to be the state’s only operating wind project.
Originally enacted in 2005, Delaware’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has been revised and expanded. The RPS requires retail electricity suppliers in Delaware to purchase increasing amounts of the electricity they sell in-state from renewable resources each year, with an ultimate goal of 25% from renewable resources by the compliance year of 2025-2026. A portion of each year’s requirement must come from solar photovoltaic (PV) sources, reaching at least 3.5% of the electricity sold by 2025-2026. Other qualifying renewable energy technologies include solar electric, wind, ocean tidal, ocean thermal, fuel cells powered by renewable fuels, hydroelectric facilities with a maximum capacity of 30 megawatts, sustainable biomass, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas.
Delaware has cut its carbon emissions from power generation by more than 5% since 2009.
Natural gas-fired power plants provide most of Delaware’s net electricity generation (85%), and 7 of the 10 largest power plants in the state are natural gas-fired. Coal, which fuels most of the rest of the in-state generation, had supplied almost three-fifths of the state’s net generation as recently as 2009, but it has been displaced by natural gas-fired generation. Coal now provides less than one-tenth of the state’s net generation, and all of it is from the single remaining coal-fired unit in the state. As a result, Delaware has cut its carbon emissions by more than 5% since 2009. An industrial combined heat and power plant operated by the Delaware City Refinery uses other manufactured gases to generate electricity, and, with petroleum and renewable resources, accounts for the rest of the state’s generation. Delaware does not have any nuclear reactors. In-state generation supplies about two-thirds of the electricity sold to Delaware customers, and the state remains a net recipient of electricity. About 3 in 10 Delaware households use electricity as their primary source for home heating
Delaware has no natural gas reserves and no natural gas production. Exploratory drilling in the 1970s and 1980s off the state’s Atlantic Coast did not find any commercial natural gas or crude oil resources, but it did discover one noncommercial natural gas deposit. Natural gas supplies enter Delaware by interstate natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania. About 5% of that amount is delivered to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Natural gas use in Delaware has been trending upward since 2009, with a peak in 2012, because of increased consumption by the electric power sector. The industrial sector was the largest natural gas-consuming sector in the state until 2010, when a temporary sharp decline in industrial use occurred at the same time as electric power consumption began its rapid rise. Although industrial sector use rebounded, the electric power sector has remained the state’s largest consumer of natural gas since 2010. The residential sector’s share of natural gas consumption has remained relatively constant. Two in five Delaware households use natural gas to heat their homes.
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