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Bordentown Township considers installing a solar electric system at the municipal complex on Municipal Drive.
BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — The prospect of a solar-powered municipal building may be on the horizon.
At Monday's Township Committee meeting, officials took their first step toward bringing solar electricity to the township by discussing the technology with Bill Hoey, president of the Bayville-based New Jersey Solar Power, which builds solar electric systems for residential and commercial buildings.
The Township Committee did not come to any decisions about pursuing solar electricity, but Mr. Hoey said in a phone interview that he gave the committee members an overview of the financial benefits of installing such a system at the municipal complex on Municipal Drive.
"The solar system produces positive cash flow for the taxpayers," said Mr. Hoey, who was not paid for his presentation on Monday. "It's a no-brainer. Any town that's not looking at this, building sustainable buildings, is not being responsible."
In a solar electric system, light from the sun is continuously converted into a electricity, allowing for a constant flow of renewable energy that is stored and used as needed, Mr. Hoey said. These systems work at the same pace on a cloudy day, since the energy comes from brightness and not necessarily sunlight, he said.
Although the installation of this system can cost thousands of dollars, energy customers save much more money over several years, since they do not have to pay utility companies for all their energy needs, he said.
"It's either pay the electric company or take control of it (energy needs) and make your own power," said Mr. Hoey, who said solar electricity is a long-term solution to growing energy costs, which are expected to increase by at least 10 percent each year.
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the average retail price of electricity for utility companies to pay is $9.31 per kilowatt hour (kwh), the 10th highest in the nation.
Between 2005 and 2008, there is expected to be about $468 million in grant money available through the state Board of Public Utilities to build renewable energy systems, according to the state Clean Energy Program Web site.
For the solar electric systems that run up to 10 kwh (residences) and more than 10 kwh (commercial buildings), the state will cover 70 and 60 percent of the installation costs respectively, according to the Web site.
In his preliminary analysis of the township's municipal building, Mr. Hoey said he told officials that a solar electric system there would cover about 40 percent of the energy costs, or 65 kwh, and save more than $1.5 million in expenses over 30 years, which is the estimated life span of the system.
The installation cost of the system would be $487,500, but the township would be eligible to receive 60 percent of it, or $292,500, in the form of a state grant, leaving the township with $195,000 to pay, Mr. Hoey said.
Township Administrator Len Klepner, who arranged for Mr. Hoey to speak before the Township Committee after his company completed a solar electric system at Mr. Klepner's house in August, said solar electricity would clearly provide financial benefits in the long run.
"In a certain sense, it's an appliance and it's an appliance that creates an appreciating value," Mr. Klepner said. "This creates value that's proportional to the energy bills."
Within five days, two months ago, New Jersey Solar Power installed a solar electric system at Mr. Klepner's house at a total cost of $17,000, he said. With the help of state aid, he was left with a $5,000 bill to pay, Mr. Klepner said.
"You're still in the range where you can get this done for little or nothing," said Mr. Klepner, who said he was not sure how much he is going to save on his monthly utility bills. "The mathematics itself is compelling. It's an investment."
In addition to less than 10 solar panels installed on his roof, a digital meter was installed in his house, allowing Mr. Klepner's utility company to read the meter via an electronic modem on his telephone pole outside, he said.
Mr. Klepner said the Township Committee did not make any decisions at Monday's meeting, but he said many committee members expressed interest in the technology.
"I think there's interest. I think there needs to be a more complete feasibility study," he said. "Hopefully, there would be some move in that direction."
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