DeCotiis News

 October 15, 2010


Branchburg Firm Selected for County Solar Initiative
Project To Save Taxpayers $18.35 Million

SOMERVILLE – A Branchburg firm has been selected by the Somerset County Improvement Authority to construct solar arrays on public-sector rooftops and properties around the county. Construction is expected to begin by year-end and be completed by December 2011.

Vanguard Energy Partners, LLC, a leader in the design and installation of large-scale solar-electric systems, has been awarded the contract to establish 7.6 megawatts of energy-producing solar-power systems at 31 municipal, school and county locations.  Citi, acting through its Municipal Securities Division, will be an equity investor in the project with Vanguard.

The clean and silent solar photovoltaic systems will save taxpayers $18.35 million over the term of the 15-year power-purchase agreement (PPA) and avoid an estimated 15,428,397 pounds of carbon emissions annually. This is equivalent to taking 1,338 passenger vehicles off the road and preserving 66.4 acres every year.

“The first phase of this project will save taxpayers more than $1 million per year in energy costs, significantly decrease carbon emissions and greatly contribute toward achieving our long-term sustainability goals,” said Freeholder Director Jack M. Ciattarelli.  “Just as importantly, with this bold initiative, we continue to demonstrate environmental leadership and our commitment to keeping Somerset the ‘greenest’ county in New Jersey.”

The Board of Freeholders has approved a county-guaranty ordinance for $40 million in Improvement Authority bonds, half of which is scheduled for repayment within one year.  This funding will cover the project’s first phase, which includes 31 sites in 15 municipalities and school districts.  Rooftops less than 10 years old, as well as some ground-level areas such as parking lots, were chosen for this first phase.

Under the terms of the PPA, there will be no capital outlay for any of the participating local governments. Vanguard will build, own, operate and maintain the solar systems for 15 years, selling the renewable electricity to the county at predictable, discounted rates. In addition, the projects will include an educational component that will track solar performance through a real-time, web-based monitoring system provided by Noveda Technologies.

The average annual cost savings on the electricity generated by the solar projects is estimated at 60 percent, depending on the roof size and other factors.

"To put things in perspective, these combined systems will be generating enough clean, renewable energy to power 900 homes annually," according to William Amann, chairman of the Somerset County Energy Council.  "That's 3,000 tons of coal per year that does not have to be mined, hauled and burned to meet electric needs.  Considering how much money will also be saved in energy costs, you begin to see why this initiative is a 'win-win' for the community."

The county expects to recoup all costs, including those associated with hiring the legal and technical consultants who have developed the program,  through the generation of electricity and sale of the corresponding solar renewable-energy credits, or SRECs, thereby making the entire project taxpayer-neutral.  The 7.6-megawatt size makes this one of the largest public solar initiatives in New Jersey.

The consultants involved in the project are the Teaneck based law firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, LLP, the Parsippany law firm of Inglesino, Pearlman, Wyciskala & Taylor, LLC, and two energy consulting firms, Birdsall Services Group of Sea Girt and Gabel Associates of Highland Park.

Locations for the phase-one solar arrays include the Somerset County Courthouse on North Bridge Street in Somerville; the county Emergency Services Training Academy in Hillsborough; the Somerset County/Bridgewater Library; Manville Library; Somerville Engine Company No. 1; Bound Brook Public Works Facility; Branchburg’s Central Middle School, Old York School and Whiton School; Bridgewater Senior Center; the Bridgewater Middle School, Hamilton School and Adamsville School in Bridgewater; the Franklin Township Municipal Building and Berry Street Garage; Franklin High School as well as Franklin Park, Elizabeth Avenue and Pine Grove Manor schools in Franklin; Green Brook’s Middle School and Irene E. Feldkirchner School; Manville’s High School and Weston Elementary School; Montgomery’s High School, Upper Middle School and Orchard Hill Elementary School; the Arts Building parking lot at Raritan Valley Community College; Somerville’s High School, Middle School and Van Derveer Elementary School; and the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Montgomery.

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