In about 90 days, West Rockhill Township officials hope to become the first municipality in Bucks County to have 100 percent of its electricity requirements provided by solar power.
The board of supervisors recently approved a contract for $169,278 with Exact Solar of Yardley to install the ground-mounted system that is rated to generate 90 megawatts a year, slightly more than the township uses in a typical year to power its township building, maintenance shed, traffic signals, and park lights.
Construction is scheduled to begin this month and take about 60 days to complete, said board Chairman Jim Miller.
“This is an exciting project and a good deal for taxpayers,” said Miller. “West Rockhill is proud to take the lead in bringing solar power to this part of Upper Bucks.”
If the system performs as expected, the township will eliminate its annual $13,000 bill from PP&L and possibly generate some income from the energy that is not used and goes back into the grid, according to Miller.
That would mean the system, which has a life expectancy of about 40 years, will pay for itself in about 11 years, said Miller.
Located behind the township building, the 180 panels will occupy about 5,900 square feet within a fenced area that is monitored by security cameras. The area is ideal for a solar system because it is open. “It’s almost completely unshaded,” according to Vera Cole, a township resident and President of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association.
Cole, who worked with Miller on the project, said another advantage of the solar farm is its proximity to existing electrical service in the township building. Its size and location allow for flexibility in how the modules are arranged “to minimize shading and minimize installation costs,” she said.
In addition to saving money for township taxpayers, Cole said a solar farm makes sense because it builds “on our record of sound environmental stewardship and would be another good step and good example in that direction.”
The project also provides an opportunity for township residents and businesses who may be curious about solar to see it first-hand and to learn more about its operation and technology, she said.
Miller hopes to involve students from the Upper Bucks County Technical School and the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in the project. Tech school students, for example, might help with landscaping while students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) program will be asked to design a website that will allow the public to monitor the system’s performance.
“This is a great opportunity, not only for West Rockhill, but for all of Bucks County,” said Miller.