MCIA Awards $6.8 Million Construction Contract for the Next Phase of Morris County's Solar 2 Program

Published on April 27, 2016

The Morris County Improvement Authority has awarded a $6.8 million contract to Suffern, N.Y. based HESP Solar for the continuation of Morris County's 2011 Solar 2 Program, which calls for the construction of 9 solar energy projects at 9 county government, school and municipal sites across the county.

The contract was approved unanimously by the MCIA last week, with specific details provided to the Morris County Board of Freeholders at their work session in Morristown this morning by MCIA Counsel Matthew Jessup. HESP, which was the low bidder, has partnered with California-based Barrier Solar as its subcontractor on the solar projects.

Work is expected to proceed on several ground-mounted solar projects in mid-to-late May, with work on all of the projects to be completed between September and November of this year.

The projects remain eligible for a 27.4 percent reimbursement for site construction from the federal government through the Federal 1603 Program, which requires work to be completed by a Dec. 31, 2016 deadline.

To view the contract approved by the MCIA, visit: /files/sharedassets/public/departments/improvement-authority/newsarchive-media/2016/605502_3.pdf(PDF, 1MB)

[caption id="attachment_1512" align="alignright" width="276"]Freeholder Deborah Smith(JPG, 37KB) Freeholder Deborah Smith[/caption]

The authority looked very carefully at the solar sites to be developed, taking a very conservative approach to virtually ensure that this round of solar development will generate revenue while also saving dollars by reducing energy needs for participating towns and school districts “ and also including county sites,'' said Freeholder Deborah Smith, the county governing board's liaison to the MCIA. We expect this to go much better than the first round of this solar endeavor, and to pay off some of our previous solar debts.''

The nine projects to be developed include:

  • Morris County Library, Hanover Township, roof and canopy panels;
  • Morris County Public Safety Training Academy, Parsippany, roof and canopy panels;
  • Morris County Office of Temporary Assistance tract, Morris Township, ground panels;
  • Chatham High School, roof panels;
  • Chester Township municipal building, ground panels;
  • Sandshore Elementary School, Mount Olive, ground panels;
  • Tinc School, Mount Olive, ground panels;
  • Long Valley Middle School, Washington Township, ground panels
  • Benedict A. Cucinella School, Washington Township, roof panels.

The contract includes a monetary penalty clause if certain construction deadlines are not met, and includes a bonus provision if properly done work is completed ahead of deadlines. Also, construction performance and payment bonds are required for each project.

The freeholders in November, 2015, approved construction of 9 solar projects after a comprehensive and exhaustive review of the economics of 16 potential solar sites across the county.

The board employed a conservative assessment of each of the 9 sites to be constructed regarding their future economic viability. It also made a significant effort to project, as best as possible, that the solar power that is generated will produce revenue to help pay off past Solar 2 project debt and provide long-term energy cost savings for the county, local governments and school districts that are hosting the solar panels.

The primary objective of the review process was to select only sites that presented the ability of generate enough revenue to cover their respective portion of debt service, operating and maintenance costs, and the likelihood of producing excess revenues to help pay off previous Solar 2 Program debt.

The work of a specially formed committee centered on the financial viability of completing all, some, or none, of the unbuilt sites in the Solar 2 program with the goals of:

  • Minimizing the county's financial exposure on bonds originally issued to fund Solar 2;
  • Minimizing risks associated with Solar 2 Project completion, if undertaken;
  • Providing budget relief to county and local units through energy savings.

In 2011, the MCIA sold $34.1 million in county-guaranteed bonds to help finance the MCIA's renewable energy program to install solar panels at 30 municipal and school sites in Morris County to generate power and reduce energy costs for the participants. Of those projects, 17 have been fully built and are up and running.

However, due to a variety of factors “ including a legal battle between renewable energy program's developer and contractor -- the Solar 2 Program has faced financial deficits, prompting the very conservative review and decision making on this latest round of projects.

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