As a state
senator, he serves on the energy committee, strongly supports
measures to promote renewable energy sources and is an advocate
for a clean environment. As a private citizen, the rear slope of
the roof of his home in Christiana Hundred is about maxed out
with solar panels.
Given the extent
his enthusiasm for solar, it might be hard to believe it is just
coincidence that the house is on Sunnyside Road.
that not every house nor every family is susceptible to
following his example in the same proportions, but said taking
whatever steps in that direction that are now possible is well
worth considering if for no other reason than that it makes
Sometime in the
not totally unimaginable future, when solar technology advances
to a point where efficiency of the panels is significantly
increased and the cost of fossil fuels escalates to a level
where serious commercialization becomes attractive, it will be
possible for folks to generate enough power not only to supply
their homes but also their battery-operated cars, he said.
"We won't need
the electric company or the oil company."
not possible to predict when that day
will come, but Copeland said the relatively small preliminary
State Senator Charles Copeland (left)
explains that sometimes the electricity
meter in his home runs backward. Thirty
solar panels on the roof supply more
than half of the house's power.
he has taken point to what lies in store.
For instance, at
enough times to be noticeable, the electricity meter in his home
runs in reverse. He is, in effect, selling some of the juice his
system produces back to Delmarva Power. State law requires that
the utility credit customers dollar-for-dollar for up to 2
megawatts generated. He was a co-sponsor of legislation that
upped that from the first 25 kilowatts.
generation from Copeland's 30 panels is 6 kilowatts. The number
of panels that anyone can install depends upon the amount of
roof space they
have available. The state will subsidize half of the investment,
through a tax credit, up to $22,500.
of course, occurs only during the day and varies depending on
cloud cover. But unlike electricity that is transmitted
conventionally, solar power is stored in cells until needed.
Overall, Copeland said, his panels provide, on balance over the
year, somewhere between half and two-thirds of his family's
He is taking
steps, such as installing new windows, to make his 55-year-old
house more energy efficient, he said.
He estimates that
his solar system will pay for itself in energy-cost savings in
about 12 years. "If I'm here 15 years or more, I'll be making
money," he said.
Copeland said he
is supportive of wind power as an alternative-energy source and
has contracted with Washington Gas Energy Services, a Delmarva
Power competitor in the retail market, to supply half of his
purchase with wind-generated electricity. At present Washington
Gas charges a 15% premium for that option.