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.

mark herman January 02, 2012 at 02:10 PM
In no way do I mean to insult the author here as I know how busy Patch writers can be. But this story is a failure and spreads what amounts to a lie. In no developed nation is solar cheaper than conventional sources. If one person can provide any peer reviewed or industry accepted numbers that solar is cost saver, then please provide it. Solar fields, giant fields with significant cost advantages are being shuttered across Europe and even in the US west. Solyandra ring a bell? Without massive actual government support, and that means more than tax breaks, solar fails. I appreciate the environmental argument. But the author is making a cost case using false facts. Patch will never work with this type of take the press release and run attitude. http://www.masterresource.org/2011/10/solar-power-cost-intermittency-too/
Michael Daigle January 02, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Mark, read the documents available on the Morris County Improvement Authority website. They detail the cost factors here. This is a program that has been in place for 3 years, In the first round the company that secured the contract secured a bid price of roughly 10 cents per KwH, which wat the time was 5 cents less than was available for the commercial rate on the open market. NJ has deregulated the electric market, thus the bidding process produces lower rates. Further, these are no giant fields, but site specific solar installations built at the designated locations. While the overall project has a large electric goal of many megawatts of power, the power use at specific sites is the real key. The "Morris Model" of a public-private partnership has been touted in national press for three years and is being copied across the country. This type of small site specific solar installations does work. I've been writing about the solar industry in NJ for nearly 8 years. There are numerous examples of why these programs work, national politics or the failure of one company notwithstanding. Progress of new technologies is not a straight line. For the details on the Morris program read the pubic documents on their website, It details the entire narrative, or call them.
David Bergeron January 02, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Michael, Solar artificially appears economic because of the the hidden taxes we pay to provide the subsidies and rebates for this very expensive power. PV is still about 4-5x too expensive to be viable and cannot likely drop that much in cost anytime soon (many decades). You should read the article Mark referenced. The 10 cent number you quoted is AFTER federal tax credits and other tax benifits the company will receive (from our pockets)
Michael Daigle January 02, 2012 at 05:36 PM
So what? in the entire U.S. history every industrial, technological or communications change has been subsidied by hidden taxes: canals, roads, airports, railroads, autos oil, nuclear power, the electrical power grid, and over all the public benefit and financial windfall for the governments outweighed the tax breaks; As for the government support for solar, how much does it actually cost a single taxpayer? $10? $50? Is that amount going to change your life? This is what I know based on reporting I have done:. The Shop Rite in Wharton 5 years ago installed solar and saves $25,000 a month on its electric bill; that is $300,000 a year, more than any tax break that coule be offered; Howmet Inc. a heavy industry company in Dover. Along with revamping all its manufacturing processes, it is installing a large solar array to supports it plant. The question for theses two examples is this: Does the including of gov't subsidies for solar outweight the economic ability of these companies to function, keep their 100s off employees working, and their off-site purchases thru local stores or other suppliers, and pay local taxes to support local and state government functions? No, simply no. The other example is Wyndham Worldwide the giant hotel and resort operator. Its CEO said the company has a golbal green energy and sustainabilty plan. When CEOs are talking about reducing their company's "carbon footprint", the argument is close to ending.
Robin January 02, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Everyone should be aware that solar installations on rooftops and via parking lot canopies are appropriate and positive, while the ground installation proposed by The Seeing Eye IS NOT THE RIGHT KIND OF SOLAR. They propose to ruin 11 acres in an historic and environmentally area to create a solar field that has questionable potential to save money and energy. Just think of it as The Seeing EyeSore.
Barbara Sharon Dalton January 02, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I live on Washington Valley Road, and I wonder why the Seeing Eye is not putting the panels on the roofs of the buildings? It seems it will be a very depressing and unsightly addition to the area, using fields. And it seems also that the company proposing to do the work is connected to somebody on the board of Seeing Eye. Seems fishy. Who will comment on this and give us more information?
Paul January 02, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Michael, a neighbor of mine, about a year ago, said he just started a new business to install solar panels on commercial buildings. I asked him, does it make economic sense? He said, yes, but only after applying government tax credits. I know that your answer is "So what?" as in your previous reply but your rationale justifying public funding can be applied to just about anything. Maybe a private solar fund can be created, seeded with some of your own $, to support the solar technology (maybe for decades if you can find enough investors). I'd rather you enjoy the return on investment.
mark herman January 03, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Michael, with all due respect, I would agree that before 2008 solar was all the rage, and fair enough as people were willing to give it a try. But it is not working. And as such people are, fairly, turning on it. -- Your later points are simply not correct about others getting subsidy to the extent of solar. Of course we could find tax dollars in every energy development, but it is solar alone that has never come within 50% of the cost of other major energy sources even with government subsidy that is the highest in history in terms of the percentage of subsidy against output. Solar may make sense to those who have another, environment based, agenda. But facts and numbers are the reason why we have seen Solyandra, First Solar, and numerous European companies go under. It just is not there yet in terms of the technology. -- I appreciate the green outlook here, but solar has lost it's halo and it is simply an industry in search of government handouts. I read the site you referred me to, but honestly, they were a bit invested wouldn't you admit? -- thanks for your response to me -- mark
Susan M. Young January 03, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Barbara: Contact Sue Young at suemyoung@optonline.net for more information. Also check out our website www.seeingeyesore.com in the next few days, we are waiting to update with information as to when KDC and the Seeing Eye will be appearing before the Morris Twp. Board of Adjustment later this month.
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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