Thursday, July 8th, 2010

The Morris County Improvement Authority on June 23 celebrated the start of construction on a 1.57 megawatt solar project at the William G. Mennen Sports Arena.

The kickoff event marked the initiation of the county’s 3.2 MW renewable energy program pilot that encompasses 19 public school and county government buildings.

The project is being financed through a landmark public-private solar development model, referred to as the “Morris Model.” Construction is starting just six months after the county announced its plans in January 2010.

“The sun is shining on Morris County, and we have an ingenious model of solar financing to thank for capturing that energy,” said Morris County Freeholder William Chegwidden, liaison to the Improvement Authority. “This ambitious project demonstrates a true feat of collaboration and innovation between the public and private sectors.”

Under the program, Tioga Energy, Inc., of San Mateo, Calif., with offices in New York, is the solar energy provider, and SunDurance Energy, of South Plainfield, N. J., is the installation contractor.

The June 23 event ceremonially unveiled the first of the 14,000 solar panels to be installed at 19 schools and county government buildings throughout the county. When completed, the total project will result in an energy savings of more than $3.8 million for the participants.

The initiative is being financed by the Improvement Authority, with bonds guaranteed by the county and no debt service or out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the local entities, Chegwidden said.

The Mennen Sports Arena will have solar panels installed on all three ice rink rooftops, with elevated solar structures covering more than 500 parking spaces to produce 30 percent of the facility’s electricity, said David Helmer, director of the Morris County Park Commission.

The project has caught the attention of Gov. Chris Christie, a former Morris County freeholder, who said in addition to its positive impact on the environment, the project will bring jobs to the area and will help the five participating school districts save money on their energy bills.

“New Jersey can be a leader in energy as an industry if we continue to harness our innovation, resources and workforce,” Christie said.

Besides the Mennen Sports Arena, the solar systems will also 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 county government’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.