Construction Begins on Solar Project at Toms River Parking Garage
Workers have begun groundbreaking work to install a roof and solar panels atop the downtown Toms River parking garage.
Toms River Township was awarded a federal grant of $902,000 to upgrade its township facilities to become more energy efficient, in 2011.
Part of the $787 billion federal stimulus package, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG) is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which aims to create jobs and promote investment. Municipalities around the country with more than 35,000 residents were able to apply for this grant, which can be used for the installation of renewable energy technologies on government buildings as well as building energy audits and retrofits. Much of the federal grant money will be used for updating public buildings with new insulation, less wasteful heating and ventilation systems and more efficient lighting. Toms River is expected to initially save $40,000 annually on their energy bills through upgrades. Once all of the projects are complete, including the addition of solar panels, the energy bills will be completely eliminated.
In utilizing the grant money for Toms River Township, the project will consist of two phases. The first phase will involve replacement of the existing HVAC system in Town Hall and the replacement of all of the out-dated plumbing and lighting fixtures. Replacing them with new, more efficient equipment would deliver a tremendous cost savings for the town. Toms River Township Engineer Robert J. Chankalian says that, “Replacing the existing lighting will reduce energy consumption by 40%. This will shrink the Town Hall energy bill which is currently $150,000 per year.” As for the new plumbing fixtures, which will replace the 30 year old units, the town is projected to save 1,150,000 gallons of water per year at a savings of $7,000 a year.
Paul Shives, the Township Administrator said, “The age of the existing compressors and boilers are also over 30 years old and the staff has been struggling over the last few years to keep them operational. New boiler efficiency is expected to reduce gas consumption by 20% to 30% by virtue of the new efficient units, and by replacing older frozen zone valves in the system that force the heat to run even when not needed in the entire building.” Chankalian adds, “A Building Management System will be installed to help the Buildings and Grounds reduce HVAC and Lighting consumption in unoccupied rooms automatically, thus resulting in even more savings to the Township.”
Solar panels to be installed on parking deck
Starting construction later in the year, the Phase Two part of the grant project will involve the installation of solar panels on top of an overhead roof that will be installed on the top deck of the parking garage at Town Hall. This phase will involve some inconvenience to the public and Township employees since portions of the parking garage will need to be closed off while construction takes place. The existing parking deck structure, which serves Town Hall, the County Library and downtown patrons, is aging and has had to undergo numerous repairs over the years. Water infiltration, which freezes and cracks the concrete structure, has been a growing problem. The new roof will significantly reduce the water infiltration and thereby reduce the needs for costly ongoing maintenance and repairs. “This phase will also include a new ADA compliant entryway to Town Hall off of the parking deck,” Shives adds.
No more electric bills
Once the solar panels are completed, however, the result will be that the energy costs for Town Hall will be virtually eliminated. The solar panels will shave $120,000 per year off the town’s electric bill and amount to a 100% reduction in electric energy consumption. Once all phases of the project are complete, the total yearly energy savings is expected to be over $160,000.
With the grant funding in place, the town and taxpayers will save thousands on future energy bills. Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher said that the grant money will pay for projects that the township considered necessary but simply couldn’t afford. As with many towns on a tight budget, much-needed maintenance work has been put on hold for far too long. “I see this grant as a great opportunity to invest in improving our infrastructure, which in turn, will improve the budget situation going forward. Devoid of raising taxes, these projects just weren’t going to see the light of day,” Kelaher said.
The Township is also actively examining the feasibility of at least two additional solar projects involving a solar farm on the Township landfill and a possible solar installation at the Winding River Ice Rink.