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Committee to Consider Solar Projects to Power the Municipality

The committee issued a Request for Proposals to determine what properties are viable and how much projects would cost

The township may consider solar projects to power public places such as the Municipal Building and its parks after issuing a Request for Proposals.

“It would help our tax dollars,” Committeeman Dave Most said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to catch some revenue, and I think that’s rare in municipalities.”

Tom Brys, vice president of Renewable Energy for Birdsall Engineering, encouraged the township committee at last week’s meeting to pursue renewable energy.

Approximately two weeks ago, Gov. Chris Christie signed Senate bill 1925, which was originally crafted to address the oversupply of solar renewable energy credits, Brys said.

“Solar renewable energy credits are the key component for financing and subsidizing the price of solar and ultimately is a fundamental investment tool,” he said.

Previously, there was an oversupply in the renewable energy certificates market and the ability to finance projects was stymied, he said.

The Senate bill addressed oversupply by increasing requirements through the renewable portfolio standard, he said. The standard is a percentage of all the electric energy delivered in New Jersey is required to be generated by either solar electric or offset by purchasing a solar renewable energy certificate.

“That creates the appetite, that creates the demand for solar renewable energy certificates and ultimately stabilizes the market,” Brys said.

Because of the bill, the market has been extended to 2028 rather than 2026, he said. It also issued an alternative compliance payment, what energy suppliers in New Jersey have to pay for every megawatt that they don’t deliver with renewable energy or by offsetting with solar renewable energy credits.

The payment used to start at $711 and is now at approximately $593, he said.

“It serves as a ceiling,” he said, adding that previously, the projects were used as moneymaking machines rather than for the purpose of serving the customers or relieving strain on the grid.

“They capped the alternative compliance payment so renewable energy payments won’t be like a license to print money for outside investors,” he said.

Now those who implement large-scale solar projects must consult the Board of Public Utilities, he said.

“So the program is redirecting its attention now to its roots, which is alleviating grid congestion and ultimately helping electric ratepayers in New Jersey,” he said.

There is also now Net Metering Aggregation, which allows electric customers who generate their own electricity using solar energy to bank excess electricity on the grid, usually in the form of kilowatt-hour (kWh) credits.

“Lacey Township has a unique set of circumstances that many municipalities in New Jersey have. There’s available space that’s not necessarily usable for other purposes” he said.

Municipalities can now take power from a solar project and deliver it to the township buildings, streetlights and overall operation, he said. Lacey Township could potentially develop and project and offset the entire electric demand for the municipality for 15 to 20 years, although the project could have a 30-year life.

“Now that this legislation is passed, it’s our recommendation that the township consider re-evaluating the properties and electric accounts and develop a strategy to move forward so the town can be in the position to take advantage of the early enrollment for the Net Metering Aggregation Program,” Brys said.

The program, which should be established in three to six months, is on a first come, first serve basis, he said. There’s a push to have projects online before next summer.

“There’s not a tremendous amount of work that has to be done but there are some decisions to be made, there’s some financial analyses that needs to be performed, there’s some physical analysis that needs to be taken,” he said. “We really need to get a final idea as to what the capabilities are, what the constraints are and what kind of opportunity the township has. It could potentially be an opportunity for the township to generate revenue.”

Before the senate bill passed, evaluation for each potential solar site was $10,000. Now it’s approximately $2,000, he said.

To determine which sites are candidates is several hundred dollars, he said. Once a site is found to be viable, the company would do further inspections and analyses.

Birdsall is currently evaluating four municipalities. But, the company consulted for more than 2,600 different locations across 112 municipalities. Approximately 50 will be taking the steps towards Net Metering Aggregation, he said.

“That’s why we’re here. Lacey Township is incredibly important to us. This was the highest priority,” he said. “We’ve been around this road a few times (with the township) where we new there was potential here but we didn’t want to start generating cost until we knew there was an opportunity to recoup those.”

Properties that could be considered would be measured in acres and must be able to sustain land clearing or replacement, he said. The first permitted Department of Environmental Protection project was actually in a retention basin.

Preferably, the areas for potential use should be condensed and close to where the power is going to be delivered, he said.

“Now’s the time to act,” Mayor Mark Dykoff said, adding that the township already has some properties in mind. Finnegers Farm, for example, has five acres that could generate power for Clune Park.

Most encouraged the committee to move forward on the application process. The township doesn’t have to bond for an entire project right now but should lock into the application since the program is on a first come, first serve basis, he said.

“For me, this is a win for all the residents of Lacey Township because the more solar we have to offset the electric costs obviously we’re not spending those expenditures in our budget by reducing our budget,” Most said.

If the township decides to pursue a renewable energy project, they could finance the venture, Brys said. There are several options such as third party financing or a land lease. But Lacey Township could potentially see a 90 percent cut in its electric bill.

With Oyster Creek Generating Station closing in 2019, the township needs to look to alternative sources, resident Tim O'Connor said. 

"I think we need to push big time with what that gentleman from Birdsall was discussing; to push solar collectors every place that we can get them," he said. "We have a lot of parking lots. We should utilize those parking lots. I'm glad to see that we're moving in a positive direction."

The committee issued the RFP to receive proposals that would give the township a better idea of viability, cost and how the Committee can fund any projects, Dykoff said.

t p o c August 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Gb Shore is in favor of corp america fleecing the tax payers. How else would he condone subsidy for big oil, airlines etc dont forget the tax breaks and loop holes Gb shore thinks jpcl should be able to charge what ever they want. even though the are an monopoly Gb shore thinks they should be able to put any kind of power plant where ever they want except in his back yard. Funny I never saw on here gb shore complain once about govt subsidies to corp america but hes crying about subsidy for solar? try google searching solar street lights georgie then get back to us on the roi for the current street lights and the light bill for the town gerorgie your right wing is showing any idea how the 2% cap of raises for the town workers which Georgie aint really a 2 % capwhen you add it all up so much for the tools tool kit goting to be paid for? any idea where the money will come from when the town doesnt win the 936 tax appeals just saying
proud August 17, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I don't see where GB Shore has commented on any of these issues that you mention. Looks look your left wing is showing tpoc. Now, sit back and take a deep breath. Calm down a bit and take another swig of Kool Aid and read the article and comments again. Then you can address the topic at hand and not go off on a rambling soliloquy.
makemyday August 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM
@jamie lee curtis wanna-be: where in my posting have i called anyone a "bum"? Stick to the truth, you'll feel so much better! And Pres. Reagan is correct, we do have plenty of oil, its the current Dem. Pres Obama thats just about shut every energy source we have down from coal, nuke, natural gas and oil. Killing thousands of jobs along with it, but puts millions into " solar Solyndra" knowing full well it was close to going bankrupt. In other words like the saying goes, dont put all your eggs in one basket!
GB Shore August 18, 2012 at 12:57 PM
What I said is that we should properly vet this out...stop being selective in your criticism. My whole point is that we should not rush into it like the BOE did ....this whole $8 million dollar fiasco you conveniently leave out....you sound just like the BOE and Town Committee. I did not say solar was a bad idea, but when you look at the economics of it, it does not APPEAR to be able to stand on it's own legs...it needs State and Federal intervention. That is a BAD business model. So if you want to ignore those facts, then you are just not being objective Jamie Lee....
GB Shore August 18, 2012 at 01:03 PM
HA HA HA....funny how people can just write things about people especially when they are erroneous. TPOC, you totally miss the point, lust like Jamie Lee. There is a difference between tax credits etc. for businesses and providing subsidies for an industry. the solar industry is having trouble standing on its own legs and if it was left to run its course like any other industry/business, it would fail. So if you want to have a debate, let's stop with the false accusations and innuendos. Maybe we can start with you identifying who you are so I know who I am talking to, since you seem to know me. gbshore@comcast.net. Let's see if you can stand behind you words and stop hiding behind your keyboard. We can have an honest discussion. I'm not going to do it on here with you. One thing I do know about you is that you certainly are a lefty lib....

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