Over the past few years the Borough of Monaca has been recognized on several instances for being an innovative and sustainable community. As recent as December 2nd, 2016, Monaca was recognized by Sustainable Pittsburgh for winning the Small Municipality/Local Government award for the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge. For the challenge, Monaca beat out other communities such as Upper St. Clair and Moon Township. Awards and recognition such as this are bound to continue after Monaca Council voting to build a solar array at the latest council meeting.
At this time, the Borough of Monaca is a gold-certified municipality in sustainability. According to an interview with the Beaver County Times, Borough Manager Mario Leone believes that the addtion of the solar array system could push the borough to the platinum level. In that interview, Mr. Leone went on to say, “The borough is a leader in sustainability,” he said. “I believe with the installation of the solar panels and other things we’re working on, we will probably achieve that higher standard.”
Coming in at just over 55,000 kilowatts, the solar array system is projected to generate approximately 63,000 kilowatt-hours annually. Comparing this to the average annual household consumption, this would be enough to power approximately six homes entirely. While enough to power that many homes, this array will generate enough power to offset approximately 42% off electricity usage of the booster pumps at the reservoir. Outside of the energy savings, by generating renewable energy, the borough will offset over 1,000 tons of CO2 over the next 25 years. In comparison, this is the equivalent to a car driving over 3.5 million miles, an airplane flying over 2.1 million miles, or 41,068 trees being planted. In addition to this, the system will also have the capabilities to report its electricity generation online for residents to view.
The system is expected to be comprised of 194 solar array panels with 114 located on the roof of a new garage to be constructed and 80 mounted on the ground in four banks of 20. The garage is slated to be an eight bay garage used to store police department assets in addition to items from the public works, water, and sewer departments as needed. With the borough planning to sell the library building, the need for storage that will be lost necessitates the construction of this building.
While offsetting CO2 emissions is a noble cause, when it comes to a taxpayer funded endeavor, ultimately it is the financial benefits that matter the most. Often times clean energy initiatives take nearly the entirety of their useful lives to pay itself back, this initiative is quite different. A system of this size does not come cheap, $150,000 to be exact. At that price tag, based upon the output of the system, it could be expected to take approximately 20 years to pay that investment back, leaving only 5 – 10 years of useful life left in the system. Thanks to the borough receiving a $75,000 Pennsylvania Energy Department Authority (PEDA) this payback period falls to under 10 years.
The question then becomes how much money could a system such as this save taxpayers and how does it go about doing that? The first way that a solar system saves money is by generating the electricity that the borough would otherwise have to pay for. Over the next 25 years, this will save anywhere between $6,000 – $10,000 a year depending on generation and electricity costs. When anyone generates solar energy, they also generate Solar Renewable Energy Credits, also known as SRECs. These credits are purchased by energy generation companies, such as Duquense Light and First Energy, to meet their requirements for renewable energy. For every 1,000 kilowatt-hours generated an SREC is awarded to the generating entity. At this time each SREC is valued at $17, but in the last year have been as high as $55. Assuming the lower end, this will generate an approximate extra $1,000 per year. Coupled together, over the next 25 years, this system can be expected to not only pay for itself, but also save residents between $100,000 – $150,000.
A conditional use hearing was held to permit the borough to build this array. Testimony was provided by Borough Manager Mario Leone & Energy Independent Solutions Project Manager Hal Saville in regards to the system followed by questions by members of Council and the public. Once in the regularly scheduled council meeting, council approved a motion to grant the conditional use and another to grant the contract to construct the solar array system to Energy Independent Solutions.
Conditional Use Hearing
Videos of the January 26th meeting will be added to this article upon being uploaded.