MORRISTOWN, NJ – By the end of next year, Morris County should have 10 new solar energy projects up and running but none will be in Roxbury, said the county freeholders Tuesday
The solar projects - approved by the freeholders “as a continuation of the county’s 2011 Solar 2 Program” which ran into financial problems - were chosen after a “comprehensive and exhaustive review of the economics of 16 potential solar sites across the county,” said the freeholders.
The board based its decision on a review process spearheaded by a “Build No Build Committee” composed of three freeholders, the Morris County Improvement Authority (MCIA) and experts. The committee’s goal was to choose solar panel sites that seemed capable of generating enough money to help pay for debt accrued with the past Solar 2 effort.
The recommended projects also needed to be capable of providing long-term energy cost savings for the county, local governments or schools that will host the panels, said the freeholders.
The committee called for construction of two solar panel fields at the county library, one at the county Public Safety Academy and one at the county Office of Temporary Assistance.
Five of the recommended sites are at public schools: Two in Washington Township, two in Mount Olive and one in Chatham. The only municipal complex chosen for a solar project is in Chester, said the county.
The freeholders said proposed sites in Hanover, Montville, Mount Olive, Parsippany, Randolph and at the Morris County School of Technology in Denville were removed from the list of potential places for solar panels: “due to less-than-viable-economics of each site.”
The committee focused on the “financial viability of completing all, some, or none, of the unbuilt sites in the Solar 2 program,” said the freeholders. They said the goals of the review were limiting the county's financial exposure on bonds originally issued to fund the project, reducing risks associated with each project’s completion, if undertaken, and providing energy cost savings to the panels’ hosts.
“The county sites provide two economic benefits: First, they produce excess revenue to pay off previous Solar 2 Program debt. Second, they provide energy savings to the county, which lowers energy expenses in the county government budget,” said the freeholders.
They said they expect a 27 percent reimbursement from the federal government for solar panel construction .
The solar panel effort began in 2011 when the MCIA sold $33.1 million in county-guaranteed bonds. The plan was to build solar panels at 30 municipal and school sites in the county to generate power and reduce energy costs.
Seventeen were built and are in operation, but “due to a variety of factors - including a legal battle between renewable energy program's developer and contractor - the Solar 2 Program is facing financial deficits and the remaining originally scheduled sites have not yet been constructed,” said the freeholders.