A Sunny Disposition

Because the Morris County Park Commission in Morristown, N.J., has been forced to do more with less, the engineering department continues to look to the sun to help the operating budget and avoid cutting services.

Solar energy is used to help power Morris County's ice rinks.

Mennen Sports Arena

The commission identified the Mennen Sports Arena as its highest energy-user in the park system. The facility consists of three ice-skating rinks. Rink 1 was completed in 1974, Rink 2 in 1985 and Rink 3 in 2002.

Many energy savings have been achieved with the completion of the energy-efficient Rink 3 contract, which included some retrofit equipment upgrades to the other two rinks as well.

The total energy bill in 2003, with all three rinks operating, was about $500,000. This cost of energy was about the same as that in the previous year with only two rinks in operation due to the retrofit upgrades. With a total annual energy bill in 2009 of approximately $810,000 (the increase mostly due to rate increases, not consumption), it was obvious more needed to be done to curb escalating costs.

The commission worked diligently with the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders to reduce energy consumption and the cost to buy energy.

An Innovative Agreement

In 2008, the Freeholders–through the Morris County Improvement Authority (MCIA)–hired consultants who developed a scope of work and a Request for Proposals to respond to and prepare public bids for a regional-power purchase agreement (PPA).

The concept was the first successful renewable-energy, public-private partnership in the state, and also the state’s first successful regional (county-wide) renewable-energy program.

The PPA was structured with “AAA” county-backed municipal bonds–a triple-win situation. The project was totally funded using investor money (no taxpayer money was involved), and substantial savings to operating budgets will be obtained annually over the next 15 years, and perhaps longer.

After identifying 19 facilities, the PPA was executed with Tioga Energy and Sundurance Energy to construct solar installations throughout the county, including the sports arena, three other county buildings and 15 public-school facilities. The total combined project has a capacity of 3.1 megawatts (MW) at a cost of approximately $22.3 million.

The arena has the lion’s share of generating capacity of over 1.6 MW. Clearly, the arena provides the largest volume of solar generation.

According to the PPA, the developer, Tioga Energy, will be the owner/operator of the solar panels, and will be responsible for the maintenance and operation for 15 years. Construction was completed in December 2010.

Solar panels capture the sun's energy.

At the end of the original contract period of 15 years, the MCIA has the following options:

1. Have Tioga Energy remove all panels and terminate the project

2. Extend the current PPA project at a new negotiated rate

3. Purchase the entire system from the contractor.

The Solar Project

The solar project at the sports arena includes ballasted rooftop solar panels on all three rink roofs, as well as parking-lot solar canopies over the majority of the parking facility.

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