Monday, October 25, 2010

N.J. Manufacturer to Build 21-Acre Solar Farm

A South Jersey manufacturer is converting a 21-acre brownfield into a 5-megawatt solar farm - and it's not spending a dime up front.

Johnson Matthey Inc., a British manufacturer of specialty chemicals that operates a plant in West Deptford, Gloucester County, has signed an agreement with a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group Inc. to develop the project.

Constellation Energy will finance, own, operate, and maintain the photovoltaic system, and Johnson Matthey will purchase the power under a 20-year agreement, said Michael Smith, Constellation's senior vice president of green initiatives.

Constellation did not disclose the project's cost or the terms of its agreement with Johnson Matthey.

A 5-megawatt solar system would typically cost at least $25 million. A megawatt is one million watts.

The project will use solar panels from SunPower Corp. that rotate to follow the sun's movement during the day, increasing sunlight capture as much as 25 percent over conventional fixed systems.

It is expected to generate about 20 percent of Johnson Matthey's electricity needs.

Smith said the project differs from utility-scale systems, such as the 20-megawatt solar farm in Salem County where ground was broken Wednesday, because it will directly supply a user rather than the regional power grid.

The solar project is the latest for New Jersey, which has enacted strong incentives to attract renewable-power generators. Constellation, the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., will collect the tax credits and market incentives as owner of the system.

Smith said the project provides a long-term hedge and stable energy prices for Johnson Matthey.

Constellation is leasing the site for the solar project from Preferred Unlimited Inc., a Conshohocken investment firm that owns the West Deptford property.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in the first three months of 2011.



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