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Morris Lights Up New Solar Project

Phase 2 of "Morris Model" is expected to generate 9.8 million kilowatts of power for 23 sites and save $7.9 million over 15 years.

Work should begin later this year on solar energy projects at 23 sites across Morris County as the second round of the county improvement authority’s solar energy initiative moves forward.

The new project is expected to generate 9.8 million kilowatts of power and save the users $7.9 million in energy costs over 15 years.

Participants in the project include the school districts of Chester, Kinnelon, Mine Hill, Montville, Morris Hills Regional, Randolph and Washington Township, as well as the Morris School District, the County College of Morris, the Parsippany public library's main branch and Hanover Township.

In 2010 the authority, which uses the financial might of Morris County to borrow money at very low rates, began what is now called the “Morris Model,” an innovative plan to built solar power installations at schools and municipal and county facilities in an effort  to reduce the energy costs of those buildings and lower the tax bills to pay for the energy use.

The other innovation in the Morris Model was the use of private contractors funded with public bonds to build and own the solar energy systems. The financial arrangements assured that no local funds were used to construct the systems and that the county improvement authority will be repaid in full at the end of the 15-year contract.

The first round, funded with $21.6 million in improvement authority bonds, produced a system that generated 3.1 megawatts of power and will generate more than $3.8 million in savings over 15 years.

Participating in the first round were the Parsippany, Mountain Lakes, West Morris Regional and Morris Hills school districts and Morris County itself.

One of the most visible projects was the addition of solar collectors at Mennen Arena in Morris Township. A total of 6,838 solar modules were installed on the arena's roof and form a carport in the parking lot, saving the Morris County Park Commission approximately $50,200 a year in energy costs. The array generates 30 percent of the facility’s energy.

“This is good stuff,” said Freeholder Director Bill Chegwidden. “It will have an impact on the sites and the schools.”

If the towns and school districts also begin to install new light-emitting diode or LED lighting, he said, the savings will increase.

The improvement authority is trying to assist local governments in moving forward to implement state-mandated energy audits, which include the use of high-efficiency lighting fixtures as one way to reduce energy costs.

The second round of the Morris County plan, a $43 million project, will be built and managed by Sunlight/Mastec, a multi-billion dollar solar power company that has done work for both Somerset and Middlesex counties and was awarded the Morris contract as the lowest responsible bidder.

Sunlight/Mastec said in its bid that it would invest some $11.5 million of its own  in the project, reducing the county’s need for bonding. The county has completed the sale of $31 million in bonds for its part.

The bidder secured a price of 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour for the first year of the project. The price, which is paid to Sunlight by the power users, will be allowed to rise 3 percent a year over the life of the contract, to an estimated 11.34 cents per kilowatt hour. That price must be lower than the buyers would pay regular power suppliers.

The savings are estimated to be $7.9 million over 15 years, beginning at $395,000 the first year, and rising to $670,000 in year 15.

Sunlight/Mastec also has contracted with Sussex County, which arranged financing through the Morris improvement authority, to build a 6.7-megawatt solar power system that will serve 13 Sussex school districts and municipalities.

That $33.6 million project  was supported by Sunlight’s contribution  of $7.5 million of its own funds to reduce the bonding. The company secured a price of 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour for the first year, rising 3 percent a year to 15 cents by year 15.

Here are the details of the projects in the second round of the Morris project, including the location, type of installation, savings in the first year and savings in the 15th year:

: Black River Middle School, ground installation, $32,345 and $54,592; Bragg Intermediate School, parking lot canopy, $15,537 and $27,501; Dickerson School, roof installation, $5,626 and $8,045.

County College of Morris: Parking lot canopy and roof installations, $66,415 and $137,478.

Kinnelon Board of Education: Kinnelon High School, roof installation, $9,328 and $14,258; Pearl Miller Middle School, roof installation, $17,762 and $27,149; Stonybrook School, roof installation, $17,599 and $26,899.

Mine Hill Canfield Avenue School: roof installation, $11,023 and $17,734.

Montville Board of Education: Lazar Middle School, roof installation, $9,057 and $13,015; Montville High School, roof installation, $9,504 and $13,687; Woodmont School, roof installation, $7,551 and $11.489.

Morris Knolls High School: roof installation, $20,914 and $30,057.

Morris School District: Frelinghuysen School, parking lot canopy, $19,292 and $30,428; Morristown High School, parking lot canopy, $16,729 and $31,979.

Parsippany public library: roof and parking lot canopy installations, $20,364 and $33,088.

Randolph Board  of Education: Ironia School, roof installation, $8,027 and $12,007; Randolph Middle School, roof and ground installations, $18,275 and $31,333; Randolph High School, roof and parking lot canopy installations, $57,028 and $95,173.

Hanover Municipal Building: ground installation, $7,370 and $10,764.

Washington Township: Long Valley Middle School, roof and parking lot canopy, $25,528 and $43,212.

Mikey January 03, 2012 at 11:47 AM
I've got a quote from a company called Sungevity. They will install a solar system on my roof for $0 down. It will replace about 45% of the power I buy from JCP&L (the percentage you get depends on the size & configuration of your roof). I will pay them a monthly lease that will be LESS than the guaranteed savings I will see from cutting JCP&L's use. As JCP&L's rates continue to rise my savings will increase. I am considering going for it! You can get a free quote at sungevity.com. There are other companies doing the same thing, I have not checked them out yet. Google "NJ solar lease" to find them. Yes, solar is partially supported by subsidies, but the dirty energy industry is also subsidized. Not only do they get the corporate welfare that any lobbyist-rich company can get, but they get a huge subsidy by not being held financially responsible for the environmental damage that their products cost. The public foolishly lets them off the hook for this. They also don't pay for the wars we fight to ensure our energy supply. The cost of solar is rapidly coming down while the cost of dirty energy continues to rise. It won't be long before solar can stand on its own, but the subsidies are needed to kickstart the industry.
Jo January 03, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Thanks to those of you who have reminded the readers that our fossil fuel industry has been subsidized from the start. (Fortunately, the ethanol industry, which has been subsidized for decades has just lost its subsidy, due to inaction by our Congress. This industry drove up corn prices by competing with the farmers who produce it for food). And Mikey - I think you were the first one to correctly include environmental destruction as a by-product of fossil fuel. Fossil fuel use has reduced the quality of our water, air and soil. We have been using our earth and our bodies as a toilet for fossil fuel waste. It's time to move on to alternative sources, no matter the price. These back-end costs must be factored in or we're just lying to ourselves.
mark herman January 03, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Mikey and Jo. Would like to visit some dump sites in China or Taiwan where the solar panel manufacturers dump their by product? Yes, not near the damage oil and gas have done, but are you seriously making the case that air in New Jersey is bad today? That is an extremely long stretch of the facts on air quality in in New Jersey and the US. Certainly air quality if better today than 50 or 100 years ago. -- You both have proved the point of the skeptics on this board, that this is not an economically viable project. The case against solar power is it costs too much, and there is nothing in your posts that change that fact. -- Mikey, if it was a slam dunk on the solar panels I would place them up there as well, so good luck, and I salute you for taking a chance. But it is that a chance. Which again brings me back to the original point. The County, Patch, and the solar company are trying to sell us on this new set of solar incentives based on savings. But the math is not there to support it. -- And thank all of you for not going political here. To me this is just a case of the facts not lining up with what we wish they would be. --
Mikey January 04, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I was being sarcastic saying that we should leave solar development to China. Of course we should develop it here, for just the reason you mention. It is interesting that you are concerned about pollution when it comes to making solar cells, but apparently not so much for burning dirty fuels to supply our power. I forgot to mention that the solar lease also includes a performance guarantee. If the system does not perform to at least 95% of their stated power production then they write you a check for the difference. So it is as close to a slam dunk as you can get in this world. Instead of blindly criticizing it why not go to the web site and give it a look see? sungevity.com. And yes, our air is bad today. Just because you can't smell or see it doesn't mean it is ok. We here in Sussex county breath the crap spewed from dirty coal plants in PA 24x7. Solar is light years ahead of the fantasy of "clean coal", which does not exist, not even as a demonstration plant. I know climate change is controversial amongst the flat earthers, but I consider that a critical long term pollution problem also. I guess our basic disagreement comes down to money. You consider the immediate dollar cost as the penultimate arbiter of where we should be getting our energy. Using that yardstick we are doomed to continue using fossil fuels until they are gone, no matter their effect on our world. I think that there are things worth more than money, and clean sustainable energy is one of them.
Legs2 March 16, 2012 at 03:45 AM
We need a group to attack this irresponsible spending. So, because some school's electric bill goes down we should rejoice? What about all the increased fees and increases in the electric bills that are paying for this out of everyone's other pocket? It is a shel game. It makes NJ a poor place to do business and adds to unemployment. Oil subsidies are the same as every other business in this country- they take off operating expenses. Not the same as the govt giving them $ to prop them up and underwrite their products.

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