County Incentivized to Implement New Energy-Efficient Measures

Combined Heat and Power Fuel Cell Being Tested
By Victoria Ford | Nov 20, 2019

Toms River — With testing of the newly installed high-tech heat and power fuel cell underway, Ocean County officials anticipate energy savings and greater efficiencies when it comes to providing power to government buildings.

Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari, liaison to the Ocean County Department of Buildings and Grounds, estimates an average annual savings of over $383,000. “That number doesn’t include the $1.2 million the county has begun to receive in incentives for undertaking an extensive energy audit,” he added. “Our work along with the state Board of Public Utilities will result in energy savings for years to come.”

A key recommendation of the energy audit was the installation of the combined heat and power fuel cell at the Justice Complex at 120 Hooper Ave.

The new 600-kilowatt natural gas-fueled CHP system is a large, nondescript, white box-like structure located on the west side of Hooper Avenue. It will generate electricity to power the Ocean County Justice Complex, while capturing and using the waste heat for space heating, cooling and water heating.

The Justice Complex is a multi-use facility housing courtrooms, some of the divisions of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, jail facilities and other government functions. It is heavily used by the public.

“The project is anticipated to generate more than 4.7 million kWh of electricity annually,” Vicari said.

Ocean County officials were notified that the county will receive $1.2 million in incentives from the state Board of Public Utilities for the installation of the energy-efficient heating and cooling system at the Justice Complex.

Vicari noted the incentives make undertaking the energy master plan extremely worthwhile. “This is an important step in the work Ocean County has been doing to create more energy-efficient facilities.”

Ocean County received the first BPU incentive totaling $330,000 for the equipment purchase. A second incentive of $550,000 will be provided when installation is deemed complete, and a $220,000 incentive will be sent to the county following acceptance and confirmation of required performance threshold data.

Ocean County’s request for an additional $110,000 blackstart incentive was approved after the county demonstrated the CHP had blackstart capability – a procedure for a generating unit to go from shutdown to operating condition, delivering electric power without assistance from the electric system.

One of the first steps to installing the CHP at the Justice Complex was the consolidation of the exterior electric service, during which time access to the buildings was limited, according to Vicari, but the process went smoothly and improvements were also made to the plaza at the Justice Complex.

As part of the county’s energy improvements, he added, new chillers and related equipment were installed in the Justice Complex. And there will also be upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and the installation of new energy management systems.

“All of these improvements allow for a more efficient and cost-effective way to control our heating and cooling units,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines. “Ocean County taxpayers will benefit from these upgrades as we reduce our energy costs.”

Vicari noted the costs for the improvements are being offset by the incentives from the state.

And, he said, the money saved on energy could be reallocated to pay for additional energy upgrades. The energy audit’s recommendations could reap a self-funding potential of $19.3 million, which is $1.3 million more than the amount appropriated for the upgrades.

“The original energy audit was the result of an exhaustive examination of six facilities that receive a lot of traffic from both the public and our employees,” Vicari said. “That is why they were chosen for this initial review by the BPU.”

In addition to the Justice Complex, the other facilities included the Ocean County Courthouse, the Ocean County Administration Building, the Ocean County Jail, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the parking garage, all in downtown Toms River.

These facilities total 1,022,775 square feet and produce an annual energy bill of $2.3 million, according to Vicari.

The BPU’s Clean Energy Program promotes increased energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable sources of energy. The county began the process in late 2014 to participate in the Local Government Energy Audit to identify cost-justified efficiency measures. The audit results provided the Board of Freeholders with a framework for various energy alternatives that can be implemented.

“They looked at electric and natural gas usage, building architectural and engineering drawings, lighting systems, heating and air conditioning equipment and controls, roofs, windows, doorways, occupancy schedules and maintenance practices,” Vicari explained. “Now we are in the process of making the recommended changes and saving tax dollars.”

— Victoria Ford

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