Woodbridge High School Gets the Last of the School Solar Panels

Remember the $32.5 million bond referendum on school solar panels? As the last are being installed, it's unclear whether the panels will pay for themselves as they were promised to do.

More than two years ago, Woodbridge voters approved a $32.5 million bond referendum to install new roofs on 21 township schools, to be followed by solar panels that promised to cut electricity bills by a huge margin.

If you look now, the last of the solar panels are being installed - right now, at Woodbridge High School.

A field of little yellow flags on the school roof marks off where the panels are to be placed as workmen scurry to and fro, finishing up the job.

Like other schools that received the solar panels, Woodbridge High School has an enormous sign proclaiming the installation of the "Solar Photovoltaic System" erected on the grounds.

A slogan on the sign, "Saving Money and Bringing Clean Energy to Our Community," harkens back to the promise proponents of the referendum claimed before the referendum was passed. They said that that the energy generated by the solar panels, as well as the solar credits, would save taxpayers $1.3 million in electricity bills. 

That was before the market in Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) crashed.

SRECs crash from $700 to $70

The Woodbridge project was based on a SRECs that were trading for $600 to $700 at the height of the boom. 

At the end of 2012, SRECs were trading at $70, a tenth of the price at the height of the market. The market price of SRECs has somewhat rebounded, to $110 in the most recent listing.

What impact the crash of the SREC market will have on the cost of paying off the $32.5 million bond note - and on township taxpayers - is not known. It's too early at this point to see if the solar panels have yet generated the kind of saving in electricity that were touted when the bond referendum was being promoted.

Mayor John McCormac, who heavily promoted the installation of solar panels and the bond referendum, said that taxpayers would face a property tax increase of only $6.89 if the referendum was passed.

That was based on an SREC price of $447 over a 15-year period, which the mayor said was "significantly more conservative" than his own SREC estimates. The township stopped selling their SRECs on the market late last year, as they waited for the price to rebound from the $70 bottom.

Giving credit where it's due

The sign in front of Woodbridge High School gives credit to the entities that made the solar panels happen: the Spiezle Architectural Group and the contractor, Dobco, Inc.

The Woodbridge School District's logo is also on the sign, along with the names of the district's business administrator, Dennis Demarino, and the then-school superintendent, Dr. John Crowe.

Crowe was superintendent when the bond issue passed. Crowe resigned from that position last year after a round of standardized test cheating scandals rocked the township.

There is no mention of the bond referendum, or of township taxpayers who approved the referendum, on the sign.

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Chris Stanley February 22, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Opinion piece is also to be found here: http://woodbridge.injersey.com/2010/12/07/mayor-mccormac-school-roof-and-solar-project-will-not-cost-taxpayers/ I believe RJ either lacks the comprehension skills necessary to effectively process the information presented here or he is being deliberately obtuse.
Matthew February 23, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Has it been determined how much money will be saved with the solar panels installed.
Gordo K February 23, 2013 at 09:36 PM
From what I can see, any savings are unlikely. It comes down to the revenue that can be earned from the sale of SRECs. The Township's project initially enjoyed a rate of $600 per credit. The BofE project expected a rate of $447 per credit. The recent rates for SREC credits has been in the range of $60-70 per credit. An inconvenient truth.
OFFICIAL BUSINESS February 23, 2013 at 11:01 PM
The only savings for the town hall is, Taxs payers have to pick the tab for there mistake. Who would ever think that China would make them Cheaper.
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