First Phase of Solar Project Complete

Published on February 25, 2011

The Morris County Improvement Authority has completed the first phase of its award winning renewable energy project, installing 13,629 solar panels at locations in 5 school districts and several county government facilities throughout the county.

Morris is the first to finance and complete the installations through the public-private project known as the Morris Model, providing the county with 3.1 MW in clean energy and more than $3.8 million in savings.

The Morris Model, nationally recognized for its innovation, is a collaborative effort on the part of the Improvement Authority, California-based solar energy provider Tioga Energy and installation contractor SunDurance Energy.

The Improvement Authority in 2010 issued $21.6 million in low-interest government bonds to finance the project. As the developer, Tioga owns, 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 power purchase agreement.

In addition to the low cost bond financing, Tioga Energy utilized New Jersey state incentives available through the sale of solar renewable energy certificates as well as federal income tax incentives not available to the county as a public entity, offsetting significant portions of total project costs.

As a result, the participants benefit from electricity prices approximately 35 percent less than those of the local utility.

"Tioga Energy has been an invaluable partner, both in developing the unique financing structure of the Morris Model for the first time and in the smooth delivery of these projects," said Morris County Freeholder Director William Chegwidden, Improvement Authority liaison. "The success of the Morris Model establishes our county as the nation's foremost example of how the government and the private sector can work together to adopt ambitious renewable energy programs swiftly and affordably."

New Jersey-based SunDurance Energy provided all design and installation services.

Construction on the project's first installation at the William G. Mennen Sports Arena began in June 2010.

"In a matter of months, Tioga and SunDurance took us from groundbreaking to completion, enabling us to 'go solar' with virtually no disruptions to our operations," said David Helmer, executive director of the Morris County Park Commission. "With the addition of the solar rooftop and parking canopy structures, Mennen Sports Arena now receives 30 percent of its electricity from renewable resources and is a regional solar project showpiece."

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.

Other participants included the Boonton School District, which had 993 solar panels installed at Boonton High School and the John Hill and School Street schools with an expected savings of $16,100 a year in energy costs; the Mountain Lakes Board of Education, which had 754 solar panels installed on the roof of Mountain Lakes High School at an anticipated savings of $13,100 a year; and 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 with an expected yearly savings of almost $26,000.

The Parsippany School District anticipates yearly energy savings of $30,700 from the installation of 2,041 solar modules on the roofs of Parsippany High School and the Brooklawn, Central and Troy Hills schools.
By installing 520 solar panels on the roofs of Morris Hills and Morris Knolls high schools, the Morris Hills Regional School District expects to realize savings of $8,500 a year.

Morris County had 897 solar panels installed on the roof and an outdoor parking lot at the Schuyler Building in Morristown and at the Voter Machine Tech Center in Hanover and is looking to reduce energy costs at those facilities by $12,300 a year.

"We are fortunate to have aligned ourselves with a county now recognized as a national leader for its progressive and cost-effective renewable energy programs," said Paul Detering, Tioga Energy CEO. "Together we've created an economically viable blueprint for local governments to work with the private sector to deliver economic value and sustainability at the community level. Tioga Energy commends Improvement Authority for its initiative."

The Improvement Authority plans to start the second phase of the Morris Model this year with additional school districts and local governments participating.

Additional information about the renewable energy initiative may be obtained by calling the Morris County Improvement Authority at 973-285-6020.

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