Utility Turns to Solar Power at Wastewater Plant

The Atlantic County Utilities Authority in New Jersey has signed an agreement to install a $3.

The Atlantic County Utilities Authority in New Jersey has signed an agreement to install a $3.25 million solar energy system at its wastewater treatment plant in Atlantic City.

The entire project is expected to be completed by October of this year. The first phase involves installation of solar panels over the parking lot, and on three rooftops at the plant. The final phase will consist of installing three ground-mounted “arrays” at open areas around the site. The new solar panels will provide an estimated two to three percent of the energy needed to power the wastewater facility.

“Solar panels can capture the sun’s rays all year long, even on cloudy days. On especially sunny days, the panels will operate at maximum output and help reduce our demand for electricity during the most expensive peak period, helping to reduce our energy bill,” said Richard Dovey, ACUA President.

The contract was awarded to WorldWater & Power Corp., maker of solar energy systems, and its Joint Venture partner Conti Corp. Under the joint venture agreement, WorldWater & Power will supply all solar-related equipment, engineering and design services, and Conti will provide construction services and construction project management. First phase of the project is expected to be completed by August 1 and full completion by October 1, 2005.

ACUA will retain ownership of the solar power system and will be responsible for its maintenance and operation. All electricity produced by the solar panels will be used for ACUA operations at the wastewater treatment plant; none will be sold to the power grid.

The cost of this project is $3.25 million but includes a $1.9 million incentive or rebate from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy and a low-interest loan from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust program.

“Thanks to funding provided by the NJ BPU and the additional low-interest loan, the ACUA will be able to reduce its energy bill and pass along the savings to its customers. In addition, the community will reap the benefits of clean, renewable energy that is good for the environment,” Dovey added.

The solar energy project is just one of many alternative energy projects that the ACUA is pursuing. The utility is planning a Wind Farm project at the same site, and also has a geothermal heating and cooling unit installed at its Egg Harbor Township “Geo” Building; a landfill gas-to-energy generation system; has used biodiesel fuel on a temporary basis and is planning to convert its entire diesel fleet of 102 trucks and equipment to biodiesel fuel by early summer; has propane-powered vehicles and four Hybrid Ford Escapes; uses reclaimed wastewater for the wastewater treatment plant’s sludge furnace scrubber; and is considering a heat recovery project, which will produce electricity by recovering heat from the biosolids incinerator.

“Each new project brings the ACUA closer to independence of fossil fuels. With the installation of solar panels and five wind turbines in the near future, our wastewater treatment facility will, at times, be entirely powered by clean, renewable, alternative energy,” Dovey said. “The ACUA has long been a leader in protecting our environment and is hoping to serve as an example to the community as proponents of alternative energy and stewards of our water and land.”

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