MILLVILLE — City officials on Thursday showed off the municipal government’s first solar energy field, a project they say should save the city an estimated $2.3 million in power costs over the next 15 years.
The solar field at the city wastewater treatment facility on Fowser Road will eventually provide about 90 percent of the plant’s energy costs and has already cut about $62,000 from its power bill since February, the officials said.
The $5 million investment by Marina Energy LLC, a subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, was built at no cost to the municipality, City Commissioner Dale Finch said.
That, coupled with the energy savings that can be passed on to taxpayers, is something “we’re very happy about,” Finch said.
“It is great to see this project come to fruition and already be successful,” Mayor Tim Shannon said. “We have successfully reduced the city’s operating costs while lowering the carbon footprint.”
According to information provided by the city, the solar field has, since Feb. 4, eliminated about 645 tons of carbon dioxide. The energy produced is enough to power 5,140 60-watt light bulbs for eight hours a day for an entire year.
The initial 15-year power purchase agreement was originally awarded to the local firm of Mill-Green Partners LLC in December 2011. Mill-Green won the contract over a proposal from the Cumberland County Improvement Authority, whose plan was deemed by city officials as not “economically feasible.” Marina Energy took control of the power purchase agreement from Mill-Green in November.
The facility involves 4,928 solar panels built on 7.4 acres. An additional 6.8 acres of ground was cleared to prevent shading of the solar field.
Construction of the facility was completed in about two months by Cambria Solar LLC of Pleasantville.
The facility had its official dedication during brief ceremonies Thursday.
David Robbins, senior vice president of South Jersey Energy Solutions, another subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, said the project is an example of more South Jersey municipalities turning to “cleaner, renewable sources of energy.”
The Solar Electric Power Association ranked the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility as first in the nation for creating more new solar-energy watts per customer in 2011. Vineland had no solar-energy fields four years before receiving the first-place ranking.
Atlantic Cape Community College hopes to reduce its electricity needs by 50 percent by installing solar car ports at its campuses in Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Contact Thomas Barlas: