A new energy program at Atlantic Cape Community College will save the college money while it generates about 40 percent of the school's energy.

Marina Energy LLC, a subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, will install 7,736 solar panels in the college's parking lots beginning in July as part of the green initiative project on campus, said Mark Streckenbein, director of construction and capital projects.

The 2.2-megawatt photovoltaic system will serve many purposes, including providing an educational station for students, said Richard Perniciaro, dean of facilities, planning and research.

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The college's average annual energy consumption at the Mays Landing and Cape May County campuses is a combined 6.6 million kilowatt hours, Perniciaro said. "The (new) system will generate about 2.5 million kilowatt hours, or 40 percent of the needed electricity."

Officials have previously estimated Atlantic Cape will save $93,000 to $130,000 a year in electricity at the two campuses over the 15-year period of the contract, or about $1.2 million in inflation-adjusted dollars.

In 2009, the Board of Trustees made the decision to seek solar proposals for the college's green initiative project. The initial lowest qualified bidders on the project in January 2010 were unable to get financing and agreed to terminate their agreement.

"Projects must promote sustainability as well as add no new costs to the operating budget. In this case, the savings will help protect tuition rates and promote access to Atlantic Cape," Perniciaro said. "Atlantic Cape will purchase the electricity at a fixed rate, which will save the college money compared to current and future rates. It also protects the college from any unexpected utility rate increases."

The fixed rate is an initial cost of 8 cents per kilowatt hour in the first year, and the college will buy all of the photovoltaic system's output over the next 15 years, he said.

Officials have said the college currently pays 9.8 cents per kilowatt hour as part of a state-county college energy consortium.

Atlantic Cape said in a statement Wednesday that the equipment for the project comes at no cost to the college, based on an agreement with South Jersey Industries. Marina Energy LLC will design and construct the project.

An educational benefit for the students comes in the form of a monitoring software package, which collects real-time system performance information and makes it available online, as well as three kiosks that will be set up around the campuses.

Preparations began in May, and the installation begins next month.

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