America's North Shore Journal

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Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst adds solar

employees, line up a solar panel for installation atop a home

Kerry Fagan and James Echavarria, Trinity Solar employees, line up a solar panel for installation atop a home Jan. 18, 2013, in Falcon Courts North at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Fagan and Echavarria are part of the 150 installers contracted to provide solar panels to approximately 1,500 homes on JB MDL. U.S. Air Force photo by Pascual Flores

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Story by Pascual Flores

Community members residing in the Falcon Courts North area have recently been swamped by working crews installing rails and solar panels on homes in an effort to provide a cleaner environment.

The United Communities project is expected to generate about 13.7 million kilowatt hours of renewable electric power annually.

Representatives for UC began looking into the idea of installing solar panels two years ago in an effort to bring clean energy to the joint base community. Trinity Solar, designer and integrator of solar electric systems in New Jersey, contacted UC with a proposal to install solar panels on the roofs of homes.

“Approximately 1,500 out of the 2,200 homes will get solar panels,” said Matt Garron, UC property manager. “This is based on how much shade or tree coverage is in the area and the direction the home faces, houses in a southerly direction provide the maximum sunlight exposure.”

The process began Jan. 2, 2013, with installation of the rails onto the roof followed by the first solar panels installed Jan. 17.

The project is expected to be completed around the middle or end of September as the crews move from one location to another as the work is completed. A group of 150 TS installers are broken down into 30 crews to meet the deadline.

“It is a huge benefit to the environment,” said Garron. “We estimate a third of the electricity consumed on the UC property would be saved.”

Three inspections are performed before a home can be brought online with solar panels. First, an inspection of the attic to assure the rails are properly attached to the homes rafters. Second, a rough inspection of the outside area around the house for the electrical hook-ups. Third, a final inspection by an independent contractor to assure all the electrical connections are properly tied in to the inverter before putting the house on the grid.

“Generally, it takes about five days from start to finish to complete one home,” said Garron. “As of Jan. 24, we have 20 homes already up and running.”

Solar panels have been appearing throughout many different areas of JB MDL.

The New Jersey National Guard has three substantial solar arrays on Dix. One system on top of the Joint Training and Training Development Center produces enough electricity to power upwards of 150 homes.

The latest solar installation was a parking canopy in front of the National Guard’s New Jersey Joint Force Headquarters on Dix, completed in 2010.

“We like to be out front in installing solar on military facilities on the East Coast,” said Kryn Westhoven, New Jersey National Guard spokesperson.

Besides joint base, the New Jersey Guard has solar systems producing power at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, N.J., and the Homeland Security Center of Excellence in Lawrenceville, N.J.

“Our ‘green’ initiatives have already saved taxpayers thousands of dollars in annual utility expenses and will continue to do so in the future,” said Westhoven.

More than 1,000 solar photovoltaic panels were unveiled in September 2009 atop of the 99th Regional Support Command Headquarters on Dix. The solar panels’ energy output was estimated to produce approximately 310,000 kilowatts hours of energy per year while eliminating 2,177 tons of airborne toxins and saving more than $160,000 annually according to an article published in 2009 by the then Fort Dix Public Affairs office.

Other areas on McGuire utilizing solar panel energy are the 87th Civil Engineer Squadron, the Library-e and Resource Commons and the 87th Medical Group.

“The True Green Financial from Boston, Mass., is sponsoring the Trinity Solar panel project on JB MDL,” said Garron. “All the homes will benefit from the solar panels because it is all going back into the same grid.”

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