Benchmark Reached on Unique Solar, Wind Hybrid Project

Last week marked a dedication ceremony of the first phase of construction for a unique hybrid solar and wind project in New Jersey. Once completed, the project will showcase a half-MW, commercial scale solar project, and five commercial scale wind turbines working in conjunction to provide on-site power for an essential public good.

The project is located at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) wastewater treatment facility on the coast in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Community Energy (CEI) of Pennsylvania was in charge of the wind component while the multi-array solar component was a joint venture between WorldWater & Power Corp. and New Jersey-based Alternity Power, a new division of construction contractor, the Conti Group. Under the joint venture agreement, WorldWater & Power designed and engineered the project and supplied all solar-related equipment for the system at the wastewater treatment plant near Atlantic City. Conti provided construction services and construction project management. The 504 kW solar electric system uses Sharp solar modules and a variety of Xantrex inverters spread out over five different arrays including two rooftop arrays, a large solar carport structure, and two ground-mounted systems. The dedication represented completion of the first phase of construction of the solar components, principally a large solar carport featuring 936 separate modules. The remaining 223 kW of solar arrays will be completed early next year. Likewise for the wind power side, the dedication celebrated commissioning of the first two wind turbines. When fully built, the wind power component of the project will have installed five 1.5 MW GE wind turbines, each standing 397 feet tall, the first multi-turbine deployment of wind power on the coast in the U.S.. Each project on its own would be a noteworthy deployment of renewable energy, but all the commercial scale applications working in unison make this a unique and progressive project, said Jyothish Daniel, Vice President of Alternity Power. “I thinks it’s quite remarkable and farsighted in terms of the client, ACUA, to have actually not limited themselves to one form of renewable energy but to have looked at multiple uses and forms of renewable energy, and in my mind, take a pretty aggressive stance in executing both of them,” Daniel said. “They were very advanced in terms of saying they wanted both solar and wind, and not want for one over the other.” The ACUA took a broad look at the entire campus of the large wastewater treatment facility and determined there were strong reasons to deploy both solar and wind. For wind, this area of New Jersey’s coast has been identified as one offering some of the best wind resources in the U.S. The total 7.5 MW output of the wind turbines offer the bulk of the hybrid project’s on-site power but solar proved a good fit as well since the facility is endowed with considerable open spaces suitable for solar. New Jersey’s best-in-the-nation solar rebates, which pay for roughly half the cost of commercial solar installations, offered another push for solar. Lastly, the water treatment uses a vast amount of energy and they could use all the power they could get. And the combination of two renewable energy resources provides for a more consistent power delivery to the treatment plant since both the solar and wind resources fluctuate. As a sign of how large the energy demands are for this facility the hybrid system still only accounts for a small percentage of the overall power needed. For example, just the half-MW solar system alone will only cover three percent of the treatment center’s needs during typical output. This may be a relatively small contribution, but Daniel sees it partly as a pioneering recognition among state officials that renewable energy can be particularly useful to take the power strain off critical pubic projects. The hybrid system isn’t designed to store energy for back-up use, or to run if there should be a local grid-failure, but Daniel said the ACUA is considering it an option going forward. It wasn’t deployed here and now, but Daniel predicts it will become more common in these public works renewable energy projects. “I think you’ll eventually see where there are project packages where battery back-up becomes integrated in the balance of system,” Daniel said. “There is just too much value sitting there, too much value sitting on tap if you don’t have that system. And with energy costs being what they are, as the technologies drive down the cost per watt of solar you’ll see larger and larger systems coming online.”
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