Lakewood Energy-Efficient Initiative and Solar Project Shines Brightly

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 27, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — It’s a win-win for everyone in Lakewood. The approximately $4,000,000 solar panel project nearing its completion didn’t cost Lakewood taxpayers a penny, but they and the Township will benefit financially from reduced electricity costs and the improved clean energy generation that will help the environment.

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As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the stimulus package enacted in February 2009, Lakewood Township received an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) of $678,200.00 to save energy, install clean energy generation, upgrade to energy efficient equipment, and help the environment.

The grant was used to fund multiple projects all based on a U.S. Department of Energy approved strategy to determine how to spend the grant money to most efficiently save energy. This planning process identified energy saving opportunities at Township facilities.

After the strategy was in place, officials conducted an energy audit using EECBG funds through the Government Energy Audit of the New Jersey Clean Energy Program. Steven Winters Associates and Birdsall Services Group completed the audits on five Township buildings. Andrew Conte, energy engineer with Partner Engineering and Sciences, Eatontown, formerly with Birdsall, assisted the township in understanding the energy conservation measures or ECMs identified by the audits and turning them into a viable business plan that utilized the EECBG and all available incentive and rebate funds.

The next step was to implement ECMs that would lead to the conservation of energy and renewable energy generation. The first project implemented with EECBG funding was the installation of a new HVAC system, boilers, air conditioning units, air handler units, and controls in the Municipal Building. The EECBG funds also paid for new doors and energy efficient windows in Lakewood Township Municipal Building and the adjacent Inspection building to make the shells of these buildings more insulated and energy efficient.

Other HVAC and lighting improvements done throughout township buildings are ongoing to date through the New Jersey Clean Energy Program’s Direct Install program.

Conte said, “Through the Clean Energy Program, we were able to leverage some of the grant funds. The State is providing 70 percent of the funding and the township only has to cover 30 percent. With the Clean Energy Program, the township got a lot of new heating and furnace equipment, and lighting in a few of the aging buildings.”

Steven Reinman, acting Township manager and then Lakewood’s director of Economic Development, said, “The replacement of most windows and doors, and the replacement of the boiler and air conditioning systems (HVAC) with high efficiency systems should result in significant savings for the township. As we approach the completion of the final phase of this set of energy projects, we can say with confidence that we have utilized this federal grant to maximum efficiency.”

Another project funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) focused on installing photovoltaic (PV) solar panel generation systems (PV systems), which necessitated involving several contractors.

Conte said, “When the Township decided they wanted to move ahead with the PV projects, the EECBG amount of funding left was not enough to completely pay for the installation; therefore, the Township elected to use some EECBG funds to perform feasibility studies and preliminary engineering. As a result, the Township decided to solicit bids for a power purchase agreement (PPA).

“In the end, they installed PV systems on two Township roofs. Many companies were involved: the company that owns the PV systems, the PPA provider; the company that installs them; and on this project, the company (Partner Engineering) that makes sure the township realizes the benefits it anticipated.”

First, the PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) provider leases the roof space from the Township for energy production. In turn the township receives a decreased cost of energy per kilowatt hour for each one of the buildings equipped with solar panels.

On behalf of the township, Partner Engineering monitors the solar panel systems and calculates how much the savings should be in order to find out if the township is getting what they expected from the systems. This measurement and verification process is an essential part of the EECBG and any energy project.

Conte said the township will keep an ongoing monitoring system for the entire life of the PV system to ensure its effectiveness. The contract that Partner Engineering has with the township is for the first 24 months. The Township’s contract with the owner of the solar panels, the PPA provider, is for 15 years.

Conte explained, “Solar panel systems are like any appliance for your house, such as a hot water heater. The units will last at least 20 years. Think of the solar panels as another appliance you can add to your house, except they help you with the energy consumption—solar panels are built to the same standard as any other household appliance and roof mounted equipment.

The 725 kilowatt system installed at the DPW will generate approximately 811,870 kilowatt hours of electricity, saving the Township an estimated $60,000 the first year. The 29 kilowatt system installed at the EMS building will generate approximately 33,970 kilowatt hours, potentially saving the Township an additional $2,000 this first year.

Ervin Oross, director of Lakewood’s Community Development Department, explained, “The savings for Lakewood Township is based on our kilowatt usage. For example, if our usage is now 1,000 kilowatts a month, and solar companies can produce 200 kilowatts a month, 20 percent of our usage would be at a significantly reduced rate. The solar systems installed on a roof are tied into a specific meter. Whatever solar energy is produced is distinguished from what is being taken from JCP&L. With a solar system, we would be able to reduce the amount of energy we use from JCP&L. The percentages of how much solar energy we use, however, will vary from building to building, depending on how much solar capacity is on a particular roof.”

Mayor Akerman said, “We should realize tremendous savings by tapping into solar energy, which will save money on energy every year. This is a terrific opportunity to make a difference for our community.”

“This is an example of maximizing benefits from limited resources,” said Deputy Mayor Steven Langert. “This initiative is seeking to create more value for Lakewood than the initial grant, and provide the township with energy savings that will be worth even more in the long term. We are very glad to have upgraded our infrastructure and also to have created a long-term source of inexpensive energy production for our taxpayers.”

Members of the steering committee included Senator Robert Singer; Committeeman Ray Coles; Lawrence Bathgate from Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf; representatives from Birdsall Services Group, Steve Reinman, and Ervin Oross, director of Lakewood Township’s Community Development Department who helped secure the funds for Lakewood.

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