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.

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.

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.

The ballasted solar roof was used because new closed-cell granular roof systems were recently completed on two of the three existing roofs, so structural penetrations in the new roofing system were discouraged.

The sports arena project utilizes about 6,800 solar panels, and produces about 1.6 MW of solar capacity. The equipment provides about 30 percent of the total electric-energy needs at a guaranteed reduced rate. The PPA fixes the future cost of energy “delivered” at 10.6 cents per kilowatt with a 3 percent increase every year for 15 years.

It is widely anticipated that the cost of energy will exceed the 3-percent increase per year over that span. It is conservatively estimated that the project will produce a minimum average of $25,000-per-year savings in rate-charges alone to the annual operating budget at no cost to the commission. This projection is anticipated to be substantially more with future energy-cost escalation and incentives for the actual demand reduction of 1.6 MW are realized.

Tioga Energy benefits from tax credits (SRECS) of which the commission and other non-taxpaying participants cannot take advantage. While the rate is guaranteed, the developer will share in the energy savings as well as pay off his initial capital expense.

The project also includes replacing the existing high-energy-consuming parking-lot lights with energy-efficient T-8 lights under the solar canopy. Additionally, the project includes a kiosk in the lobby of the arena that will serve as an educational tool for the public, informing it of the status of the solar-panel energy production and new forms of renewable-energy savings. Ultimately, this same information will be available on the Internet.

Other Solar Project Benefits

The results of this project include:

1. Reining in energy costs

2. Controlling the carbon footprint

3. Providing local green jobs

4. Involving the community in renewable-energy education

5. Receiving financial incentives for releasing 1.6 MW of energy demand

6. Releasing the demand during the key public-demand peak periods

7. Reducing annual carbon dioxide equivalencies to include 1.2 million vehicle miles not traveled or 1,300 barrels of oil conserved or 125 acres of pine-forest carbon-storing

Past And Projected Savings

From 2007 to 2009, the commission has reduced its electric consumption from 6.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) to 5.4 million kWh, or a reduction of 11.5 percent. This savings was accomplished through capital projects.

While the above represents the most recent energy initiative, plans are underway to design and construct other similar energy-consumption measures at the sports arena. Rink lighting will be replaced with energy-efficient fixtures, and an energy-management system will be implemented using 100-percent federal stimulus funds.

In addition, officials have been coordinating with and securing rebates under the New Jersey Clean Energy Smart Start Buildings Rebates program. To date, approximately $18,000 has been received under this incentive program.

Jeffrey A. Biggs, PE has been the Director of Engineering Services for the Morris County Park Commission in Morristown, N.J. since 1994. He can be reached via e-mail at jbiggs@morrisparks.net.