Pittsgrove Township schools to move ahead with major solar energy project

Published: Monday, December 26, 2011
By Phil Dunn / Today's Sunbeam Today's Sunbeam

The Pittsgrove Township School District is moving ahead with a major solar project.


PITTSGROVE TWP. — The Pittsgrove Board of Education has made the decision here to move forward with plans to construct two solar arrays. 

The project is slated to provide the district with smaller energy bills at little to no cost to local taxpayers. 

One solar array would be placed behind the tennis courts approximately 500 feet from both the middle school and high school. The 2-MW system would take approximately eight acres of land and service both the middle school and high school. 

The second solar array would generate approximately 200 kW and would be placed on one acre of land behind the Olivet School. 

Superintendent Henry Bermann believes this solar project is additional proof that the Pittsgrove School District is working to find creative ways to stay ahead of the curve during tough budget years. 

“This is really a testament to the forward thinking of the board,” said Bermann. 

He said by installing the solar panels, the district is expected to save a substantial amount of money over the next 15 years. 

He said the Clayton School District recently approved a similar solar array and they are projected to save more than $500,000 during the 15-year agreement. Both systems wede designed in consultation with our District Architect, Garrison Architects of Marlton. 

“There is an ample amount of savings without negatively impacting the taxpayers,” Bermann said. 

In order to avoid the outlay of capital for the project, the district is expected to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA). 

According to professionals working on the project, a 2-MW solar array could cost upward of $8 million. The PPA would allow the district to pass that financial burden off to a third-party developer. 

By allowing the third-party developer to use their land, the district will be sold electricity at a reduced rate. A normal contract length for a PPA is 15 years. 

Bermann said the only capital outlay for the district would be the use of their land and approximately $35,000 that would be reimbursed once the project is approved. 

“Fifteen thousand will be dedicated to the first phase to see if we are permitted to build a solar array and to make sure we meet all the requirements in terms of installing the technology,” said Bermann, adding the second phase will be used to initiate the bid specs and all the cost associated with putting the project out for bid. 

Phase two will cost $20,000. But Bermann made it clear these funds will be reimbursed to the district. 

Though the financial risk is less for the district by entering into a PPA, the district loses the ability to generate and sell SRECs, that benefit is passed along to the third-party developer. 

SRECs are issued once a solar facility has generated 1,000-kilowatt hours of energy, and then are sold primarily to electricity suppliers. The kilowatt hours are calculated through either estimated or actual metered production. 

Electric producers are required to yield a certain amount of solar energy by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), and if they do not they must buy SRECs. 

SRECs are currently being sold at a rate of about $300 to $500 per kW of energy produced.


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