Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The Morris County Improvement Authority has awarded a $22.3 million contract to a California and New Jersey solar development team to implement the county’s pilot Renewable Energy Program, which is projected to save its participants an estimated $2.3 million in energy costs over the next 15 years.

Under the program, Tioga Energy, Inc., of San Mateo, Calif., with offices in New York, and SunDurance Energy, of South Plainfield, N. J., were competitively selected to install solar panels on the roofs of 14 public school buildings in five school districts and several county government facilities.

“Not only is this the first successful renewable energy public private partnership in the state, but it’s also the state’s first successful regional renewable energy program,” said Freeholder William Chegwidden, liaison to the Authority. “The freeholders, the Improvement Authority commissioners, the school districts and our professional staffs worked extremely hard for more than a year on this project, which will result in environmental, financial and educational benefits to all of the participants.”

The initiative is being financed by the Improvement Authority, with bonds guaranteed by the county and no debt service incurred by the local entities, making it financially feasible for the participating school districts, Chegwidden said.

“It can be cost prohibitive for a school district or a town to implement a renewable energy program on its own,” Chegwidden said. “The Improvement Authority initiative enables an entity to go green by joining with the county to reduce a portion of its energy bills and not experience any out-of-pocket costs. This is a true partnership between the county government and the school districts.”

The solar developer will design, install, operate and maintain the equipment, according to John Bonanni, Morris County administrator and Improvement Authority chairman.

“The Tioga team will be able to take the federal tax and state utility advantages that are available in the solar industry” Bonanni said. “The developer can then effectively pass on a portion of these benefits to the participating school districts and the county through the sale of solar energy to them at a fixed price, lower than the existing retail price for energy, for 15 years.”

While the initial participants include some county government and Park Commission facilities and five school districts, Chegwidden said he expects more local governments will follow.

“This is a long term project,” Chegwidden said. “We’ve had more than 40 municipalities and schools districts express interest in the program. Once we get the pilot off the ground, we’ll go back to them.”

The solar systems will be installed at Boonton High School, the high school parking lot and the John Hill and School Street schools in the Boonton School District; Morris Knolls and Morris Hills high schools in the Morris Hills Regional School District; Mountain Lakes High School and the Wildwood School in the Mountain Lakes School District; the Brooklawn, Central, Littleton and Troy Hills schools in the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District; West Morris Central and West Morris Mendham high schools in the West Morris Regional High School District; the ice rinks and parking lot at the Morris County Park Commission’s Mennen Arena in Morris Township; the county’s Schuyler Building and the building’s parking facility in Morristown; and the county Voter Machine Tech Center in Hanover.

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