Keep up with Sparta's solar projects online

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:51

    Photos, info, and financials are now just a mouse click away Sparta — For taxpayers who say 'show me the money’ when it comes to Sparta’s investment in solar energy, the township is doing just that. A new link has just been added to the township’s Web site which provides detailed cost and revenue analysis, as well as photos and overviews on each of Sparta’s various solar projects. Last month the council discussed the idea of providing the information on the Web site and asked Town Manager David Troast to consult IT director Mike Dempsey about compiling the data and creating the Web pages. Deputy Mayor John Schon said, “It’s important to show taxpayers how these funds are being spent.” Dempsey, who spearheaded the planning, projections, and design of all three projects, said this week he had already considered providing photos and updates on the solar projects for the town’s Web site when he was approached by Troast. He said, “It was serendipitous timing because I had already started working on it.” The solar project updates can be accessed from the township’s home page at Several pages are provided, including general information describing how solar energy is generated, how the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) can provide revenue, and even an exhaustive glossary of solar terminology. Sparta currently has two operational solar facilities and a third is in progress and slated for completion by the end of this month. Town Hall The first of Sparta’s three solar projects is an 88.6 kilowatt system installed on the roof of the municipal building on Main Street at a cost of $428,000. In its first year of operation, the system has saved over $20,000 in energy costs to power town hall and has generated nearly $79,000 in revenue through the sale of SRECs. DPW Building The second solar project was a 48.3 kilowatt system installed on the roof of Sparta’s Department of Public Works building on Prices Lane, at a cost of $228,000. In less than a year of operation, the system has saved $5,000 in energy costs to run the building and has generated over $18,000 in SREC sales. Germany Flats Sparta’s latest solar project is the largest and is in its final stages of construction. Rather than using roof-mounted solar panels, this facility is a solar farm with 1,498 ground-mounted photo voltaic panels set across 1.5 acres at the Germany Flats water pumping facility on Park Lake Rd. The panels are expected to generate 480 megawatt hours of energy annually and to produce around 85 per cent of the energy needed to run the water pumping facility. The solar farm is projected to save around $70,000 in energy costs each year. The system can also produce approximately $260,000 in additional yearly revenue for the township through the sale of SRECs. The township bonded $1.3 million to build the solar farm. A breakdown of each of these projects is available on the Web site, showing investment, energy savings, revenue generated, and debt remaining. (See box.) No cost to taxpayers Officials say due to the combination of energy cost savings and revenue from SREC sales, paying off the town’s debt for all three solar projects will be possible with no tax impact on residents. Sparta’s Chief Financial Officer Mike Guarino said that Dempsey’s original numbers were very conservative and that debt for all three projects will be paid within seven years.