Media / Press Releases


Regarded as one of the cleanest and quietest ways to produce electricity, solar power harvests energy from the sun's rays. Officials at the Clearview Regional School District are hoping that voters' eyes will shine just as brightly at the prospect of solar power when they head to the polls in April.

At the annual school election, a public question will seek voter approval to issue bonds for more than $1.3 million toward construction of a solar panel project at Clearview.

"If you do the math and look at the rebate, this project is pretty much paying for itself," said district business administrator Esther Pennell. "To us, the mathematics makes sense. It could save Clearview a lot."

Under the proposal approved by the board of education last month, the solar project would not increase debt service for local taxpayers.

The district plans to utilize a Customer Onsite Renewable Energy (CORE) rebate of more than $417,000 from the New Jersey Clean Energy Program. The CORE rebate will be used in conjunction with state-approved debt service aid.

That aid would be released to Clearview as the bonds become payable.

In addition, Clearview would be able to sell off the excess electricity that the panels generated but went unused. It's estimated that the district's income from Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) could amount to $66,045 annually.

An SREC a rebate from the state Board of Public Utilities Ð is issued for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of solar electricity generated. The SRECs are then sold to electricity suppliers who are required by the BPU to produce some sort of renewable energy.

Otherwise, the suppliers would have to pay a fee for non-compliance.

The district could also reap about $25,000 in savings on utility bills because of the solar use.

Superintendent John Horchak said the panels would most likely be placed on the roof of the district's middle school, parallel to the football field.

At this time, it's unclear how large the array would be.

Solar panels have been a hot topic in recent years, from municipal governments to school districts to private companies struggling with the cost of powering their facilities.

Locally, Woolwich Township's new municipal complex is slated to have a 64-panel solar array on its roof.

Officials there expect to sell off their extra energy for $1,000 a month.

In November, more than 13,000 panels were installed on the roof of the Atlantic City Convention Center. That project is expected to save the convention center $4.4 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.

Logan Township was recently awarded a rebate in the amount of $235,000 to go toward a green energy program at their municipal complex.

The Pennsville School District installed more than 500 solar panels on the roof of its middle school in May and has been able to sell off their SRECs.

In that district, the $838,000 system was augmented with nearly $400,000 in funds obtained by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3rd Dist.

At least seven other schools statewide have had solar projects approved over the past year.

But gray skies continue to hang over one Gloucester County plan to grab energy from the sun.

In Washington Township, the county's largest school district sought voter approval last March to begin a $6.2 million solar panel system. The project was voted down.

A second proposal to install a solar power system at the high school was shot down a few months later by a majority of board members who felt the project again wouldn't garner enough voter support.

To seed the project, the state Clean Energy Program had awarded the township a $1.5 million grant the largest such grant ever bestowed in New Jersey. Those dollars had to be given up once the notion of a referendum was scrapped.

"The problem is that residents don't want to hear about an increase in their taxes for a school for any purpose, much less solar," explained SolarWorks NJ owner Steve Masapollo. "They don't understand solar. If it's not explained properly, it's that much harder to convince someone to buy into the idea."

Masapollo's Turnersville-based company has been producing on-site power generation systems for the past few years. He said that, given the rebate, by going through the proper company and getting the proper pricing a solar system could pay for itself in five years' time.

"They're not going about it properly that's part of the problem," Masapollo said of Washington Township's solar situation. "There are reasons why they never get it passed. They need to present it in a monetarily advantageous way."

Despite the lack of support in Washington Township, Horchak is confident that a solar bond issue will pass at Clearview Regional if the public is made aware of its benefits,

"If the impact was $10 to $15 a month per taxpayer, I don't know that we'd be so confident it'd be the right time," Horchak said, adding that the project would be timed in conjunction with the installation of a new roof.

The Clearview plan would ultimately cost taxpayers nothing. Horchak said its size and scope is much less than the project Washington Township had proposed.

For now, conveying the benefits of solar energy to the public in the spirit of saving money and the environment is job number one.

"In this market, it's all everyone's talking about," Horchak said. "Going green-- what greater example for the kids?"

In Turnersville, Masapollo figures that he saves thousands of dollars a year each year through the solar array which powers his home. He sees no reason why voters wouldn't go for the deal the state is offering Clearview.

"It's not going to go away, because it's clean energy," Masapollo said, referring to the advantages of solar power over fossil fuels.

And, he noted, If solar is used widely, "we won't have as much dependence on foreign oil. It's a good investment."

©2008 Gloucester County Times