Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
The Morris County Improvement Authority held a lengthy public information and question-and-answer session last night in Morristown, providing a detailed analysis of its preliminary findings on the viability of various unbuilt solar sites in the county.
|Mennen Sports Arena Solar Panels
At the nearly four-hour session attended by some three-dozen residents and non-residents of the county, MCIA Counsel Matthew Jessup and Thomas Brys of Matrix New World Engineering, the county’s consultant on solar projects, focused on potential sites that could be built – if approved by the freeholders – with a specific and frank analysis of the fiscal viability of each of 15 potential sites.
Each unbuilt renewable energy site has been reviewed in terms of its long-term potential to generate revenue to help offset financial losses suffered in the county’s previous solar endeavor, and its potential to reduce energy costs for each local government entity (school district, municipal or county buildings, etc…) where solar panels would be installed.
“Contrary to what Sheriff Rochford was telling people on his robo-calls to county residents over the weekend, the goal of our current solar or renewable energy project review is to minimize future potential financial exposure for our taxpayers, to help reimburse them for past losses, and to ensure that any future steps we take are fiscally sound,’’ said Freeholder David Scapicchio.
|“I’m not sure what expertise Sheriff Rochford can offer on solar issues. The sheriff’s calls were odd – like his behavior in the past year – but he probably did us a favor to invite people to come out and be part of this discussion.’’
The sheriff, in his calls to some 10,000 residents on behalf of the New Jersey Taxpayers’ Association, urged county residents to attend Monday night’s meeting, saying: “They are (the freeholders) considering building more controversial solar projects even though the current projects are losing millions of your dollars.’’
Rochford did not attend Monday night’s solar session, at which he could have been informed of the specific reasons that the MCIA and freeholders are reviewing the potential financial benefits to county taxpayers of constructing some of the unbuilt sites.
|“While the solar program bonds were issued in 2010 and 2011 by a prior freeholder board, we have a fiduciary responsibility to Morris County taxpayers regardless of our prior misgivings,’’ said Freeholder John Krickus. “Our primary focus now is damage control, minimizing the losses the county will incur. The county faces potential additional losses depending on the market value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs),” he said.
The MCIA, in concert with a Morris County Freeholder’s “Build-No Build Committee,’’ were asked by the freeholders to make recommendations regarding the financial and operational aspects of the unbuilt renewable energy sites. Based on this information, the freeholders will decide in the near future whether to move ahead with any of the unbuilt projects.
In its presentation on Monday, the MCIA also discussed design, engineering, construction and future maintenance issues related to the unbuilt sites from the MCIA’s Renewable Energy Program Series 2011.
In 2011, the MCIA sold $33.1 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 its contractor — the county has incurred and faces future financial losses, and renewable energy projects at 13 of the originally scheduled sites have not yet been constructed.
The county, with the assistance of the MCIA, is now undertaking a process to determine the viability of moving ahead with the unbuilt sites, with a primary emphasis on construction and financial viability. These sites consist of facilities owned by Morris County, municipalities and boards of education located within Morris County.
The freeholders will get a final report from the MCIA and the board’s “Build-No Build Committee’’ in the near future, and will make a decision on those sites later this fall.
To provide comments on the build-no build methodology, please fill out a solar feedback form that can be found on the county website at http://www.co.morris.nj.us/