Delaware River and Bay Authority eyes alternative energy installations for its facilities in New Jersey, Delaware
NEW CASTLE, Del. – With uniquely located facilities encompassing hundreds of acres of land in two states, the Delaware River and Bay Authority is exploring the potential for alternative energy projects that could not only save the authority money, but play a key role in protecting the environment.
The green energy initiative is being spearheaded by an ad hoc committee on alternative energy formed earlier this year to explore the possibilities available to the authority, which operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Cape May-Lewes Ferry and five airports in New Jersey and Delaware.
“The DRBA has an obligation to use the toll revenue we receive at our facilities in the most efficient way,” said Delaware Commissioner Scott Green, the alternative energy committee’s chairman.
“If renewable energy options offer us the chance to save money and operate with some certainty in our future energy costs, we should be pursuing alternative energy.”
While solar, wind and geothermal energy are most common alternative energy technologies, the authority is considering all options in the field. It wants to pursue the best options to save it money and help to reduce its carbon footprint, officials say.
“We are open to any and all new technologies that achieve our desired goals: Cost-savings, efficiency, energy independence and future cost stability. Solar and wind are certainly the most discussed technologies today, be we are not locked in on them,” Green said.
Energy is no small expense for the DRBA. By the end of this year, the bi-state authority’s bill for electricity and natural gas will surpass $3.5 million.
“From the traffic control systems and roadway lighting at the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the heating and cooling of the ferry terminals and airport runway lighting, our facilities require a significant amount of energy to conduct daily operations,” said DRBA Chairman Bill Lowe of Delaware.
The DRBA has an advantage most private businesses or individuals don’t – its vast land holdings throughout New Jersey and Delaware both inland and along the Delaware Bay, where alternative energy installations can easily co-exist with its current transportation operations.
Sites that have the potential for hosting one form or another of an alternative energy project include the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the land surrounding it on both sides of the Delaware River along its approach roads. The authority-run airports in Millville and Cape May County in New Jersey and the New Castle Airport, the Civil Air Terminal and Delaware Airpark in Delaware also offer vast space that could be used.
The authority’s two ferry terminals on the shores of the Delaware Bay, in North Cape May and Lewes, Del., are seen as potential sites for wind energy installations because of the near-constant breezes off the bay. At the airports, large areas of cleared land is available for both solar arrays and the many wells that would be needed in the production of geothermal energy.
The authority’s goal with the initiative is to find an outside firm that will build alternative energy generating systems on its properties. The authority could then purchase the power produced at discounted or long-term set prices that would protect the DRBA from future rate increases from the open market.
This plan would require the investment of outside firms and not a substantial outlay by the authority.
The authority took the initial step to get the project off the ground in July when it solicited requests for information from firms in the alternative energy field.
In August, DRBA staff met with 20 companies that showed interest in the proposal and in by early September had received more detailed information from five firms with more concrete ideas on the potential they saw for the project.
Now, the authority staff will review the submissions it has received on ideas for projects and development recommendations for a formal request for proposals on the alternative energy project.
The alternative energy project could not only benefit the DRBA, but provide jobs for firms involved in the project both in construction and maintenance of the facilities, according to officials.
“With the adoption of renewable energy projects at our facilities, we believe that we can achieve significant energy cost-savings and reduce our carbon footprint, while at the same time, providing economic opportunities to local businesses in both New Jersey and Delaware,” Lowe said.
“I am optimistic we will be able to realize mutually beneficial partnerships with firms in the renewable energy field at the conclusion of the process.”
“Where we can, we also want very much to have a positive impact in our communities,” Green said. “Pursuing smart, money-saving new technologies that employ local contractors and companies is a great way for us to repay our customers for their patronage and to repay our communities for supporting our mission.”
Green, who joined the 12-member DRBA board of commissioners in 2008, has long urged the board to look into how alternative energy sources could save the authority money and set an example for others.
As a member of the Board of Trustees at the University of Delaware, Green said he has seen the school undertake many successful alternative energy projects. He cites the single wind turbine installed at the university’s College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Del., that completely took the campus off the power grid and it provides excess energy that is sold back to the town. He also cites other successful corporate and private endeavors.
“I believe that renewable energy can save us money and make us less dependent on foreign-controlled energy sources,” Green said.
Green said since the process is still in its preliminary stages, there is no estimate on how much money the authority can save.
“We are early in this process. We have no target other than to control our costs as best we can,” he said.
New Jersey Commissioner Ceil Smith co-chairs the ad hoc alternative energy committee.
“Our committee, headed by Commissioner Green, wants to make sure we at the authority are doing everything we can to make the authority run more efficiently through energy cost-savings and to do our part to help protect the environment,” Smith said.
And while the authority is investigating alternative energy sources to supply new power, it is has also already implemented a number of energy conservation measures to cut consumption and costs.
“It should be noted that our focus contains another component, energy conservation,” Lowe said. “As a result of an energy audit in 2009, the authority implemented a number of conservation measures that have cut our energy consumption and costs.
At the DRBA board’s last meeting, Green said it is important to include all employees in conservation efforts.
“Commissioner Smith and I, at the last committee meeting, asked that all authority employees be notified of the work of our alternative energy committee. We want them to know about our efforts. Plus, they are on the front lines and might know of places where energy can be saved,” Green said.
“This is a team effort: The commissioners, the authority management team and all of its employees have to work together to maximize the opportunities to save on energy costs.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding