New Jersey Town Goes Solar With Unique Financing Model

Here at EarthTechling, we’re always interested in new models for financing major renewable energy projects. One that caught our eye recently is a new public-private partnership in Morris County, New Jersey,encompassing 19 local facilities generating 3.2 MW in renewable energy program pilot,  referred to as the “Morris Model.”

The kick-off event for the pilot project, recently announced by the Morris County Improvement Authority (MCIA) along with solar energy provider Tioga Energy and installation contractor SunDurance Energy and reported on by Morristown Green, celebrated the start of construction on a 1.57 megawatt (MW) solar project at the William G. Mennen Sports Arena; the solar system, comprising installations on all three ice rink rooftops as well as elevated solar structures covering more than 500 parking spaces, is expected to produce 30 percent of the facility’s electricity. The kick-off event also unveiled the first of the 14,000 solar panels to be installed at 19 schools and county government buildings throughout the Morris County.

Morris Solar Project

image via Morristown Green

The “Morris Model” refers to a hybrid solar financing strategy, whereby the MCIA issued state-approved government bonds to finance renewable energy projects, and the project developer, Tioga Energy, qualified for the Federal tax incentives that would normally not be available to public entities. Tioga then passed along the savings to the County with clean electricity at a lower rate: under the terms of the 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Tioga, Morris County will purchase the electricity generated by the systems at a price that is approximately 35 percent less than that charged by the utility. During that 15-year period, the combined solar energy systems will generate 51,500 megawatt-hours (MWh) of clean energy, which creates carbon offsets equivalent to taking more than 200 passenger vehicles off the road each year. When completed, the total project will result in an energy savings of more than $3.8 million to the county.

“New Jersey can be a leader in energy as an industry if we continue to harness our innovation, resources and workforce,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in a statement. “Powered by smart businesses and communities, as exemplified today in Morris County, and strategic financial incentives, this new marketplace is opening up jobs and revenue for the state at a rapid pace.”

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.