Solar panels bring energy, savings to Short Hills water facility

August 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

An array of solar panels that were installed at the New Jersey American Water Company’s Canoe Brook site in Short Hills last year is working great so far and outperforming the original projections, according to Richard Barnes, the external affairs manager for New Jersey American Water.

Richard Denning, production manager of the New Jersey American Water facility on JFK Parkway shows off the solar collector array floating on pontoons on the Canoe Brook Reservoir No. 1, the first of a series of collectors planned to be built on the property.

Last summer, New Jersey American Water installed 400 solar panels into a 120-by-120-foot section of the southwest corner of Reservoir 1 as a pilot project to see how much electricity the company will save by using solar energy. These panels were mounted into an industrial type of floating dock system that was anchored to the bottom of Reservoir 1 and tied to the docks with elastic bands. This ensured the panels’ array would be properly aligned at an optimum angle facing the sun.

Bob Biehler, senior project manager for New Jersey American Water previously told The Item of Millburn and Short Hills that the solar panels would output about 135,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. He said the panels would save about 4 percent of electricity used at the New Jersey American Water township site.

According to Barnes, the panels are expected to save between $16,000 and $17,000 a year in powering the facility.

To date, the water company is close to its savings goal. The solar panels have saved the water company approximately $13,000 since the system started being used in October 2011, Barnes told The Item of Millburn and Short Hills in an email.

Interruptions caused by a new treatment plant that was being constructed on the Canoe Brook site are responsible for slight deductions in savings, according to Barnes, but he stated that the system is performing well.

“We believe this is because the panels operate more efficiently at cooler temperatures and, due to the proximity to the water, they operate cooler and therefore produce slightly more,” stated Barnes in an email.

But, according to Barnes, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to judge how the solar panels would perform in a freeze-thaw environment because of this past winter’s mild temperatures. He told The Item in a phone interview last week that winter temperatures would have to be 32 degrees Fahrenheit to see how they would perform in a freeze-thaw environment. Temperatures in January and February 2012 were mostly in the 40s and 50s, according to the website

Millburn mayor Sandra Haimoff previously told The Item the Canoe Brook Operating Site is the first one on the East Coast to put solar panels in water.

“The concept of the project was anytime we can go solar…it’s a wonderful thing for our planet,” Haimoff told The Item this week, “It’s great that they were doing something like this.”


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