Helga Huntley’s home in Timber Creek is shaded by large trees, making the solar panels on a roof inefficient. Huntley and her family now get all of their electricity from solar and other green energy sources due to a new initiative from the City of Newark. “I am a professional oceanographer, so I deal a lot with data that illustrates how humans are altering the climate,” Huntley explained. “It’s crucial to me that we accomplish something regarding it, and everyone has to contribute in some way.”
Huntley, a member of the city’s Conservation Advisory Commission, was one of the first Newark residents to enroll in the program, which began in May. Members in the scheme pay a monthly premium in exchange for power generated entirely from renewable sources. Current city electric customers can choose to participate in the program, but new accounts are automatically registered unless they choose to opt-out. According to city officials, participation has so far exceeded expectations.
As per David Del Grande, the Finance Director, over 1,600 persons had enrolled in the program as of June 30, accounting for almost 13% of the city’s total subscribers. About 30 of those are opt-in users, with the rest being new accounts. City Manager Tom Coleman remarked, “It’s working better than we expected.” “I anticipated a much higher number of people opting out than we have. As a result, I believe our program’s early estimates have been significantly exceeded.”
According to Del Grande, the initiative raises a customer’s electric cost by about 10%. According to Huntley, this equates to less than $10 each month. Coleman estimates that the scheme will generate between $120,000 and $200,000 each year. Simply put, a large portion of the funds will be used to promote the expansion of solar power production in Newark.
The city already operates the McKees Solar Park on Cleveland Avenue. It aims to add around 1.3 MW of solar energy to its inventory later this year or even early next year. The municipal facility, the George Wilson Center, and two structures at the city service yard off Phillips Avenue will all have solar panels installed.
The present McKees site will be extended, and solar panels will be erected in a vacant area near the Newark Reservoir. The latest solar panels are a component of a $10 million power efficiency project that will be paid off over 20 years through cost savings and power sales. If Newark’s need for renewable energy surpasses its production, the city will buy renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the other renewable energy providers in the region.