The Dover Historic District Commission has approved a request to place solar panels on the roof of Woodburn, the Governor's House.

The city of Dover’s Historic District Commission approved a plan March 18 that would allow the fitting of solar panels on Woodburn, the governor’s house, despite the prime contractor’s pulling out of the deal.

By approving the plan, commissioners left open the possibility the system still could be installed, either by another contractor or by the state itself.

Delaware State Director of Facilities Management Bob Furman said the system would have operated under a power purchase agreement, where the contractor would have installed, owned and maintained the equipment, and the state would have bought the power generated by the solar cells.

As such, there would have been no upfront cost for the state, Furman said.

The system, which would have covered approximately one-third of the roof on the south side of the mansion, would have generated just under 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Woodburn uses approximately 73,000 kwh of power each year, Furman said.

The project, while small, would have underscored Gov. Jack Markell’s desire to cut the state and the nation’s reliance on nonrenewable sources of energy, Furman said.

“Any time we can reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy sources is a good thing,” Furman said.

However, in this case, the contractor decided the project wasn’t big enough to warrant its participation, Furman said.

Company representatives told Furman’s office about their reversal of position just after he had submitted the package to the Historic District Commission, but

Furman decided to go ahead with the request in the hopes someone else could pick up on the project.

“Basically, they told us they were willing to do it if we put up the cash,” Furman said, adding, “We wanted to do this without upfront costs.”

In approving the project, HDC commissioners Richard Scrafford, Charles A. Salkin and C. Terry Jackson laid out four conditions: the panels should follow the current roof slope; the color should be compatible with the roof color, any mechanical equipment must be unobtrusive and that any changes made after the project is finalized may again require their review. The HDC approval is good for 12 months.

Although no one appeared at the commission’s public hearing, Dover resident Tom Smith sent an email objecting to the project, saying it would “deface” the building and was not compatible with Woodburn’s historic character. Woodburn, which was built circa 1790, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places;

Smith said he would write to National Register officials and demand Woodburn be de-listed if the project goes through.

Furman said it is possible funding for the project, estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000, could be found in the state’s capital construction budget. That cost could be made up in energy savings over the next 20 years, he said.

In other business …

Commissioners were to receive an update on their January demolition by neglect finding regarding the Bayard Hotel, but were advised by property owner Henry Mast there had been no developments on plans to tear down the building. The panel agreed to keep the item on its agenda until Mast moves forward on the project.

In a separate action, Dover Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. said he looking for a replacement for the late Commissioner James D. McNair II. The HDC is made up of five commissioners, but has been operating with only four since McNair’s death in January. Persons interested in serving on the HDC should contact his office, Carey said.