The Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) has sold over one million dollars in Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) since the 500 kW solar project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Atlantic City came online in January of 2006. An SREC represents the environmental benefits created by producing renewable energy as opposed to traditional fossil fuel sources. The SRECs have a value and trade on the open market. Buyers of SRECs can use them to satisfy Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) set by individual states. A RPS requires certain amounts of energy sold in a state to come from renewable energy sources. SRECs can be used by sellers of electricity to meet RPS compliance limits. In this short time the 2,700 solar photovoltaic panels have generated about 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity.
The ACUA’s facility in Atlantic City has 5 solar arrays; two mounted on rooftops, two on the ground and one solar canopy shading the treatment plant’s parking area. These panels provide over 600,000 kWh of electricity per year, enough to power 60 average homes and displace 350 barrels of oil. Solar power is used by the facility and to power the electric vehicle used onsite.
Since the solar system was placed in service, over 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity has been produced. For every 1,000 kWh of solar power generated, one SREC is created leaving ACUA with 2,500 SRECs to sell over the last four years. The ACUA’s SRECs are sold quarterly by auction on the Flett Exchange. As of the last auction held in February, SREC revenue to the ACUA passed the one million dollar mark. When the project was designed, SREC’s were valued at $125. In 2009, the ACUA averaged $660 per SREC. This increase in value has shortened the time needed for the system to pay for itself from 10 years to four and a half years. After the next SREC auction in July, the project will be solely generating profit for the ACUA.
The total project cost was $3.25 million which was offset by a New Jersey CORE rebate in the amount of $1.8 million. The remaining $1.4 million was financed by the ACUA. As of this release the sale of the SRECs and the avoided electricity costs of more than $350,000 have paid back the initial investment.
The choice to go solar for the ACUA has been purely advantageous from an economic and environmental perspective, and this experience has led the ACUA to move forward with plans for solar panels on the landfill at the ACUA’s Haneman Environmental Park in Egg Harbor Township. A portion of the landfill is currently being “capped” in preparation for a solar installation which could cover approximately 12 acres and produce 2.5 MW of clean, renewable energy.