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Harnessing the sun

Seabrook’s solar field expected to save money, conserve energy

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November 4th, 2016
Seabrook’s solar field faces south at a tilt of 10 degrees. The height of the back panel stands approximately 7 ½ feet high. It will produce approximately 20%–25% of Seabrook’s annual electric load.

Seabrook’s solar field faces south at a tilt of 10 degrees. The height of the back panel stands approximately 7 ½ feet high. It will produce approximately 20%–25% of Seabrook’s annual electric load.

Seabrook has joined Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Macy’s, and IKEA, along with hundreds of other U.S. businesses that have gone solar. Together, they contribute to offsetting 890,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. 

In September, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., began using its 13,320 new solar panels after nearly a year of planning and construction. The community anticipates the solar panels will save at least $250,000 a year in energy costs. 

“Our project is a 4 megawatt system and is projected to produce about 20%–25% of Seabrook’s electrical usage,” says Project Manager Karen Kollmer. “We will see changes to our electric bills immediately by a reduction in the usage required from JCP&L [Jersey Central Power & Light].” 

Positive energy, predictable costs

Seabrook residents will see no changes or disruptions to their electricity service. 

Electric is one of many monthly household costs included in each apartment home’s monthly service package. The convenient, fixed monthly fee also includes all other utilities except telephone, a flexible meal plan, use of all amenities, and property taxes. 

“By lowering the community’s overall cost for electricity, we’re able to keep our monthly service package consistent and affordable year over year,” says Sales Director Dan Simms. “Residents and future residents can appreciate this positive change.”

Resident Advisory Council (RAC) Secretary and former finance committee member Peter Calistri says, “It will help our budget considerably as far as the electrical bills go. We’ll have a savings of about $300,000 a year that will be reflected in our monthly service package.”

Bob Gamble, who served as RAC president in 2015, says savings to the monthly service package wasn’t the only reason the community favored a solar field. “When you improve the cash flow, you can do other things,” he says.

“We looked at this project rather carefully and felt it was definitely to the benefit of the population, so we favored it and still do. We are pleased that it’s coming together on schedule and looking forward to seeing the benefits flow in,” Gamble says.

Residents and staff can even monitor the solar energy at two electrical meters, one located in Village Center Clubhouse and one located in Town Square.

“Many residents have expressed interest in the project, asking lots of questions not only about the specifics of this project but the solar technology itself,” says Kollmer.

Adjacent to the community off of Essex Road, the south-facing solar field is surrounded by berms and trees protecting the views from Essex Road and Seabrook’s security gate. 

“The concern (from residents) was what effect it will have on the layout of the community, and I think that is going nicely,” Peter says. “There is a plan to put a walking path around the solar field, eventually. Landscaping will help make it more attractive, but so far it is pretty well hidden.”

Kollmer says, since beginning the project in November 2015, the goal has been “to find a use for that portion of our property that would be good for the community and a benefit for our residents.”  

Mindfully moving ahead

Bedminster-based KDC Solar led the massive project. With 51 megawatts in operation at 11 sites in New Jersey, KDC Solar is the leading independent solar operator/developer in the net-metered market in New Jersey.

Projects similar to Seabrook’s include CentraState, a 30-acre facility in Freehold, and The Lawrenceville School, a 40-acre facility in Lawrenceville.

Seabrook officially opened the solar field on September 21 with an opening ceremony.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Peter said in early September. “I think a lot of things are moving ahead at Seabrook, and this is one of them.”

Other improvements in the community’s four-year, long-range plan include restaurant and clubhouse renovations, among others.

“This project has been a very exciting one for me,” says Kollmer. “I am also a member of the Seabrook Green Committee and really enjoy working with our residents to find ways that we can conserve energy and be mindful of our individual impact on the planet.” 

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