Fenwick Island environmental group hears from Delmarva Power

The Fenwick Island Environmental Committee met on Wednesday, July 9. Electricity and ways to save both energy and money were on the agenda as the group listened to a presentation from Jim Smith of Delmarva Power.

Smith, who has local ties as the president-elect of the Bethany Fenwick Chamber of Commerce and who lives off of Route 54, brought the group up to speed with some background on the company. He explained that Delmarva Power has about 495,000 electric customers and 120,000 natural gas customers. Its parent company is Pepco Holdings Inc. out of Washington, D.C.

He explained to the group how electricity gets to homes. It leaves the power plant, the voltage is increased at a step-up substation, and it travels along transmission lines where power is needed. Once there, it steps down or voltage is decreased at anther substation, then a distribution line carries the electricity to a home or business.

Smith mentioned that most of the power used in this area starts at the coal-fired NRG power plant in Millsboro, and the substation fueling Fenwick is located on 138th Street in Ocean City, Md., but the energy source could come from wind, natural gas, etc.

One of Delmarva Power’s main projects for the future includes the digitizing of electric meters, so they will be able to be read remotely.

“It’s really a ‘landmark’ technology,” said Smith. “It will allow us to see when a single individual customer is without electricity, and that is something we can’t tell now.”

Another thing the “smart” meters will allow for is an end to estimated bills. Because they can be read remotely, weather, “mean dogs” or whatever else had made meter estimations necessary above real-time readings will be eradicated.

Smith noted that Delmarva Power built a 230 kilovolt line from Red Lion to Indian River that was a $60 million investment and was completed in 2006. It features a new 90-mile north-south transmission line that will increase capacity by 35 percent.

One of the main interests the Environmental Committee has is its streetlight project, which is a study on how to get the “night sky” back on the bayside by either eliminating or changing some of the light poles. Councilwoman and committee member Vicki Carmean asked Smith how they would get something like that implemented in Fenwick Island.

“It’s a two-fold answer,” said Smith. “First, it’s a public safety issue. And there are two types of lights. The purplish/whitish lights are the mercury-vapor lights and the orangey lights are high-pressure sodium lights. The mercury vapor lights are going to go ‘bye-bye’ over the next few months. Pricing-wise it might be a wash.”

Smith also mentioned that lights can be pushed down, instead of them lighting up the whole sky, and he added that someone could be available to talk more to the committee about their options. He also geared the group toward organizations such as the Dark Sky Association, to help them learn more about light pollution. He also said that Pepco had a pilot program with LED lighting coming, although maybe not to Delmarva just yet.

Co-chair John Fenton asked Smith if people could anticipate rising costs for power as oil prices continue to rise.

Smith said, “Crude oil has more to do with the auto industry. Coal is still predominantly how we get electricity. As a result of de-regulation, we buy power at the end of the year. We bid out half of our load and re-shuffle rates on June 1.” He added, “60 percent of partial rates had been capped, but with the impact of Katrina, Wilma and Rita, the prices went up and we still haven’t recovered.”

In other Environmental Committee news:

• The oyster project was noted as moving right along and, according to councilman and committee member Todd Smallwood, will be capped this year at 149 participants.

• The committee plans to talk with the Center for Inland Bays about obtaining a set of waders for the lagoon-cleaning project and will aim to start that project in December or January.

• Free rainwater barrels are available for residents. The town will be getting in two or so each week. For more information, contact town hall.

• The committee also welcomed new member Susan Klein on July 9.