HAMMONTON — A solar project on 9.3 acres across Pleasant Mills Road from the Hammonton Wastewater Treatment Facility has been operating at full capacity for almost a month, officials said at the official ribbon-cutting Friday.
The town broke ground in January on the project. Mayor Steve DiDonato said it should provide 90 percent of the electricity needed to run the treatment plant and save 20 percent on the plant’s energy bills for the next 15 years.
Town Business Administrator and Public Works Manager Jerry Barberio has said the plant’s electric bills have exceeded $100,000 a year. The agreement will save Hammonton about $24,000 a year, or about $360,000 over the 15-year contract. DiDonato estimated $375,000 savings.
The ground-mounted 842-kilowatt system was built by Hudson County-based Barrier Electric.
, the prime contractor. It has 76 rows of panels, with an average row length of 240 feet. The site had housed the former plant, but for years it has been used as a storage site.
Under a power purchase agreement, Hudson Energy Solar, of Ramsey, Bergen County, built the facility and will own and operate it at no cost to the town. Hammonton will buy the electricity produced at a discounted rate of about 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour, with an annual rate increase of 2.5 percent.
In January, officials said the town will have the option of buying the solar installation at fair market value after 15 years, but Friday DiDonato said the town can purchase it for $1 at the end of 15 years. The solar panels have an expected life of 25 years, according to Barrier Electric.
DiDonato said the project is a green initiative meant to limit Hammonton’s carbon footprint.
Consultant Lance Miller, of Kleinfelder Omni Environmental in Princeton, said there have been times since the project has been online that its meter has run in reverse, meaning the town has in effect been selling energy back to Hudson. He has estimated the project will keep about 2.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being generated, the equivalent of taking 190 cars off the road each year.
Hudson is a publicly traded subsidiary of Just Energy Group with headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, and Houston, according to its web site.
Councilman Michael “Mickey” Pullia, the head of the committee that handled the agreement, has said the town held an energy auction to take bids on who would become its energy provider. Hudson Energy also won that auction, and the town is saving about $145,000 in electricity costs a year from that action, Pullia said.
He has said the town is now looking to put solar projects at other sites, such as the old landfill site and water pumping stations.
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