BY LYNN NIXON
The Morris County Solar 2 Program, which prompted solar panels being installed over the County College of Morris parking lots in 2012, is implementing phase two of the project in an attempt to further reduce the county’s energy costs. Solar panels will be installed at five public schools, the county library, the county Public Safety Training Academy, the county’s Office of Temporary Assistance and at the municipal complex in Chester, New Jersey.
“We have 10 solar projects on nine sites planned to be built this year and completed by Dec. 31,” said Larry Ragonese, County of Morris communications director. “There had been some financial setbacks in the first phase of the solar project, but phase two has been scrutinized in a very conservative manner. Only sure bets to generate positive revenue and save entities costs on their power needs have been included.”
According to the Request for Proposal issued by the Morris County Improvement Authority, “the county anticipates 27 percent reimbursement for site construction from the federal government through the Federal 1603 Program, which requires work to be completed by Dec. 31.”
The RFP noted that the Morris County Improvement Authority sold $33.1 million in bonds to help finance the Morris County Solar 2 Program. However, due to numerous factors, including a legal battle between renewable energy program’s developer and contractor, the Solar 2 Program is facing financial deficits.
Therefore, the county strategically chose locations for phase two that would generate enough solar power revenue to help pay off phase one debt and provide long-term energy cost savings for the locations that will host the solar panels.
According to CCM’s website, the solar panels installed on campus during phase one of the project were expected to “generate about 45 percent of the college’s yearly energy usage, which would power about 340 homes per year.”
In addition to saving energy and money, the solar panels over the CCM parking lots have provided a bonus to the students parking under them — protection from the weather.
“Parking under the solar panels in the bad weather is awesome because they keep the snow off my car,” said Professor Evren Gulistan, a CCM adjunct algebra professor. “I think it’s a great idea for saving electricity and cutting the costs on the electric bill.”
But the panels have not worked as well in the rainy weather.
“I get drenched when I park under the solar panels in the rain,” said Marvin Vibanco, a CCM liberal arts major. “The rain is like a waterfall over the edges of the panels. It falls directly onto me and my car as I try to get in and out, but they are great in the snow and also great for the environment and helping to reduce energy costs.”
Whether the panels are sheltering cars from the snow, power washing them during the rain or saving the county thousands of dollars on its electric bills, the Solar 2 Program is an investment that affects us all.