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:
Chester School District: 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.