Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders has renewed its support of the renewable energy program being undertaken by the Morris County Improvement Authority.

The freeholders approved a resolution Feb. 11 reaffirming the board’s consent to the issuance by the Improvement Authority of up to $30 million in county-guaranteed bonds to finance the renewable energy project, known as the Morris Model.

Under the program, a California and New Jersey solar development team will install solar panels on the roofs of 14 public school buildings in five school districts and several county government facilities.

Freeholder William Chegwidden, freeholder liaison to the Improvement Authority, told the board that according to the solar team, all of the participating school districts will pay 35 percent less for power from the solar systems in the first year of the program than they would pay for utility – provided power.

The county entities would pay an electric rate for power from the solar systems that is 22 percent less than the cost of utility-provided power in the first year.

Under the program, power will be sold to the participants at 10.6 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with the current average of more than 15 cents now charged by traditional energy providers.

On the environmental side, the solar systems will provide 17 percent of the electric requirements for the Morris Model participants, Chegwidden said.

“With financing by the Improvement Authority through county-guaranteed bonds, the school districts will incur no debt service,” Chegwidden said. “That certainly makes it financially feasible for the participants to reduce a portion of their energy bills and not experience any out-of-pocket costs.”

The design, installation, operation and maintenance of the solar equipment is the responsibility of the development team of Tioga Energy, Inc., and SunDurance Energy.

The team will be able to take the tax and utility advantages that are available in the solar industry and pass a portion of these benefits on 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.

Both Chegwidden and Stephen Pearlman, the legal counsel for the Improvement Authority, said they have each fielded inquiries from other counties across the state who are interested in learning more about the Morris Model.

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.