BRIDGEVILLE, Del. – The first phase of one of the largest commercially owned solar power systems in the eastern United States is now online near Bridgeville. Delaware dignitaries and executives from project partners Perdue Farms, Standard Solar Inc. and Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) attended an open house at the site on Aug. 8 to see the array of 6,720 solar panels.

This installation is Perdue’s latest initiative supporting its commitment to being environmentally friendly. The Bridgeville installation, which will supply electricity to a nearby Perdue feed mill and Perdue AgriBusiness grain facility, is the first phase of a total 11,000 panels being installed at two Perdue facilities. The panels are owned by WGES and were installed by Standard Solar of Rockville, Md.

Perdue will purchase green electricity generated by the solar panels at guaranteed prices. The second phase of the installation is currently under construction at the Perdue corporate offices in Salisbury, Md., and is expected to be complete in October 2011.

Both systems will generate a combined average of 3,700 megawatt hours of electricity each year, or the amount of power used by 340 typical U.S. homes. At peak production, the panels will produce as much as 90 percent of the electrical demand for each Perdue facility.

“We are pleased to ‘flip the switch’ on the Bridgeville installation and begin generating clean, renewable energy for our operations while lowering our energy costs,” said Steve Schwalb, Perdue’s vice president of Environmental Sustainability. “Stewardship is one of Perdue’s core values, so this is a perfect fit for the way we do business.”

The clean electricity from the solar panels will reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons per year, the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 300,000 gallons of gasoline per year, or nearly 4.5 million gallons through the life of the 15-year contract, Schwalb estimated.

“The Bridgeville installation is a substantial step toward energy independence for Perdue and we are excited to showcase this significant milestone in the development of one of the largest solar installations on the East Coast,” said Scott Wiater, president of Standard Solar.

Perdue is also renovating its corporate office to the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards. Three years ago, Perdue signed a first-in-the-industry Clean Waters Environmental Initiative with the US Environmental Protection Agency to help poultry growers adopt best pollution prevention practices.

Perdue built the nation’s first commercial poultry litter processing plant, the only process that is verifiably removing excess nutrients from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 10 years ago.