In an effort to combat rising electrical costs and also “go green” the Monmouth County Bayshore Outfall Authority installed a 533.52kw solar photovoltaic energy system at their Belford facility.  Electricity costs comprise over 10% of the Authority’s budget and by going solar the Authority will be able to reduce and stabilize power costs for the long term.

The general concept for the solar power installations was to install solar panels around the perimeter of the 4-acre equalization pond at the pumping station.  Solar power collected at the panels will feed direct current (DC) power into an inverter, located in the vicinity of the pump station electric switchgear, to convert the direct current to alternating current (AC) so that it can power the pumps and allow excess power to be fed into the utility company grid.  By feeding power to the utility grid during periods of peak solar power production and drawing power from the utility during other periods, solar power could provide nearly all of the Authority’s annual power demand for the Belford location.

Installation of the panels around the retention pond would present a number of technical challenges.  The supporting soil in the area is poor and it became necessary to install augured in anchors to reach firm material approximately 15 to 20 feet deep to support the canopy structures.  The canopies were constructed to take advantage to the maximum extent possible the south facing slopes and to maintain the panels at an elevation above the high water level.  The panels had to be laid out so that the access road around the lagoon was clear for maintenance of the panels, outdoor lighting and the pond. 

The solar array consists of 2,224 panels with 171 strings.  The system requires two inverters which are PVP 260kw-480V.  It is estimated that the annual production will be approximately 650,000kwh and will produce 650 Solar Renewable Energy credits which the authority will sell on the open market.  The Authority will have a substantial savings since it is reducing the need to purchase power.  The Authority will use “net metering’ which means solar power generated at the site will get credited to the Authority at retail power rates.  This will be accomplished by utilizing a utility meter which will spin backwards during peak solar power production and credit the Authority for excess energy produced up to the amount of annual energy needs. 

The project was completed at a cost of $2.675 million and was funded through two sources.  In December 2008, the Authority received one of the last New Jersey Office of Clean Energy CORE rebates for $1.279 million for the Belford Facility and the remaining balance was financed through the Monmouth County Improvement Authority.