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.