Renewable Energy Program Produces Greater Savings than Anticipated

The Morris County Improvement Authority’s innovative renewable energy program known as the Morris Model has achieved even greater savings than expected for the school and government entities participating in the first phase of the program.

In fact, the energy rate the participants in the program paid last year, 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour, will drop to a rate of 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour this year, for a savings of 40 percent, according to Morris County Freeholder Director William Chegwidden.

“This will result in nearly $1 million in additional Net Present Value savings over the 15-year life of the program than had been projected just last year,” said Chegwidden, freeholder liaison to the Improvement Authority. “Morris County knew this model renewable energy program would save significant dollars for school districts and other governmental entities, but this additional savings is even more dramatic and a big benefit to all of the participants seeking to trim their budgets and save costs.”

Phase one participants were the Boonton, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Mountain Lakes, Morris Hills and West Morris Regional school districts; the Morris County Park Commission and the Morris County government.

The biggest beneficiary of the rate reduction is the county park system’s Mennen Sports Arena, where almost 7,000 solar panels were placed on the roof of the ice rinks and installed as carports in the arena’s parking lot.

The savings in energy costs over the 15-year life of the project have gone from $734, 021 to $1.19 million.

“The county’s Phase 1 Solar Energy Project has generated 38 percent of renewable electricity used at Mennen Sports Arena,” said David Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission. “The Phase 1 project also spurred additional energy savings by contributing toward the reduction of natural gas consumption by 13.4 percent from 2010 to 2011, and reducing electricity consumption by 9.67 percent for the same time frame.

“The sun truly has reduced the cost of making ice.”

The Boonton School District, which had solar panels installed at Boonton High School and the John Hill and School Street schools, will experience $294,136 in net energy savings as a result of the new rate.

“The construction part of the project was seamless without any interruptions to the students during their school days,” said Pamela Ranco, the school district’s business administrator. “Over the past school year, the Boonton Town School district realized overall savings of approximately 12.7 percent, and we are looking forward to realizing even more savings with the per kilowatt hour decrease.”

In the West Morris Regional High School District, where nearly 1,600 solar panels were placed on the roofs of West Morris Central and West Morris Mendham high schools, the net savings will be $596,030 over the life of the project.

“The Morris County Improvement Authority project was one of the best initiatives in which the district has participated in recent years,” said Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast. “The fact that we received a source of renewable energy that reduced operating costs and required no upfront costs is fantastic. Now the additional savings will help the district meet its educational objectives while maintaining the spirit of the 2 percent tax levy cap.”

The Parsippany-Troy Hills School District had solar modules installed on the roofs of Parsippany High School and the Brooklawn, Central and Troy Hills schools and anticipates net savings of $549,392.

Dr. Leroy Seitz, district superintendent, said he is thrilled with the results. “In addition to recognizing annual savings of nearly $20,000 a year, the solar projects at our four schools have been a wonderful, authentic learning experience for our students,” Seitz said. “We appreciate the support of our Morris County Freeholders and the leadership they have demonstrated in making this program a reality.”

The Mountain Lakes Board of Education, which had solar panels installed on the roof of Mountain Lakes High School, will be saving $262,091 over the life of the project.

“The completed project has served as both an educational tool from the informational Kiosks located in two of our schools as well as a sustainable cost savings tool for providing energy to our facility,” said school district Superintendent Ann Mucci. “We are looking forward to working with the Morris County Improvement Authority on additional school projects.”

By installing solar panels on the roofs of Morris Hills and Morris Knolls high schools, the Morris Hills Regional School District will reduce its energy costs by $158,892 over the life of the project.

Morris County, which had solar panels installed on the roof of the county’s Voter Machine Tech Center in Hanover and on the roof and outdoor parking lot at the Schuyler Building in Morristown, will see $255,698 in savings.

Freeholder Director Chegwidden said a federal grant from the Department of Energy, made possible largely through the efforts of Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, enabled the Improvement Authority to improve the original per kilowatt hour rate.

“Congressman Frelinghuysen’s hard work has resulted in significant additional energy savings for these school districts and government entities,” Chegwidden said. “The congressman is to be commended.”

The Morris County Improvement Authority completed the first phase of its award winning renewable energy project early last year, installing 13,629 solar panels at locations in five school districts and at several county government facilities throughout the county.

Morris was the first to finance and complete the installations through the public-private project known as the Morris Model, which has been nationally recognized for its innovation.  The project was the recipient of a 2010 Innovation Award from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, which recognized the Improvement Authority for implementing “an innovative project that promotes and accelerates the adoption of renewable energy technologies.”

The Improvement Authority financed and owns the project. Tioga Energy, the developer, leases, operates and maintains the solar installations and sells the electricity produced by the systems to the participating schools and government agencies at a fixed rate for the duration of a 15-year agreement, with no out-of-pocket costs to the participants.

“Tioga is pleased to have worked together with Morris County to reduce the price they pay for electricity generated by our solar facilities,” said Paul Detering, CEO Tioga Energy. “By securing this DOE grant, Morris has significantly increased the benefit of this already successful program to the school and government agency participants, further demonstrating the county’s steadfast commitment to saving money and increasing its use of renewable energy.”

Phase two of the renewable energy project is now underway. Additional information about the renewable energy initiative may be obtained by calling the Morris County Improvement Authority at 973-285-6020.