WILDWOOD — The flat roof that covers a portion of the beachfront Wildwoods Convention Center is being put to work with the addition of nearly 1,700 solar panels.
During a brief presentation Tuesday, Tom Byrne, chairman of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, said the solar panels give the center the ability to buy electricity at a cheaper rate, creating savings that can then be out into the beachfront center’s operations.
The panels, which make use of much of the available space on the roof, will provide an estimated 25 percent of the building’s power, saving the center about $30,000 a year, said John Pino, the center’s chief engineer.
Ben Rose, Director of Marketing & Public Relations for the center, said the operating budget for the 260,000 square foot building is $5.5 million annually with utilities, including electricity, gas, water, oil and sewer, totaling $525,000.
Byrne said the tourism authority looks at itself as a leader in the economic development of the Wildwoods and he hoped the center’s decision to incorporate solar panels, reducing its carbon footprint by making use of clean energy, would lead others on the island to do the same.
“We’ve got a lot of roof space here,” Byrne said.
Some local hotel owners such have already undertaken similar projects adding solar panels to the flat roofs of the island’s motels.
“We would obviously like to be the role model in that aspect,” Byrne said.
Vineland’s electric company was recognized in April for creating more new solar-energy watts per customer in 2011 than any other utility in the country.
Vineland Municipal Electric Utility has an estimated 100 acres of solar energy fields in operation and more than 25,900 customers.
Reyad Fezzani, chairman of California-based Energy Finance Company, said his firm became involved with the Wildwood project through a partnership with Tioga Energy of San Francisco. Pro-Tech Energy Solutions, a New Jersey company, constructed the panels.
Energy Finance Company owns the solar system, which it financed, and under the terms of a 20-year lease agreement it will sell the solar electricity generated to the convention center at reduced rates. The project, which included the installation of a new roof for the center, cost $1.3 million to complete.
Richard Cooper, president of Pro-Tech, said the solar system will generate 474 kilowatts of energy and its installation was in keeping with New Jersey’s role as a leader in the solar market.
Cooper said New Jersey has more commercial rooftops per square mile than any other state, making it the ideal place to pursue solar panel projects, such as that atop the convention center.
Cooper — pointing out that solar energy provides more than 1 percent of the electricity generated in the state — said he welcomes news that Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Monday that increases the number of solar credits that the state’s electric utilities must buy, a move designed to aid growth in the solar industry.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian: