Floating Racking System Installed Atop N.J. Reservoir

ENERACTIVE Solutions recently completed the installation of a 112-kW solar PV system on a floating racking system atop the reservoir at New Jersey American Water’s (NJAW) Canoe Brook Water Treatment Facility located in Short Hills, N.J. By harnessing the power of the sun, this initiative is anticipated to generate 136,000 kW of energy per year to help the plant treat and pump close to 40 million gallons of water per day to 78,000 homes within the municipalities in Essex, Union, Morris and Somerset counties.

“When considering the significant power required to purify, pump and deliver tap water to homes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it only made sense to design a more efficient energy-generating system that would conserve our client’s working capital and our country’s natural resources,” said David Klockner, vice president and COO at ENERACTIVE, an independent, full-service energy consulting, engineering, and project development company.

This project was originally initiated at the end of 2009 when ENERACTIVE was contracted by NJAW to conduct solar PV surveys on 16 of its water treatment locations. During the study it was determined that since many of the facilities contained large, remote reservoirs used in the water distribution system, these vast surfaces should be utilized to host a “floating” solar PV system. ENERACTIVE proceeded with the design and development of this innovative approach to energy production by creating a solar array that would float on an open body of water, with the rigor to endure the harsh weather conditions that are prevalent in the Northeast.

“This is an ingenious solution to a serious site constraint. Our team was able to formulate and implement a solar project where land and roof space was scarce. These are exactly the types of hand crafted solutions we love to bring to our clients,” said ENERACTIVE President and CEO Dan Weeden.

Limited floating solar PV systems have been installed in warm-weather climates. These systems have previously not been able to survive freeze/thaw weather cycles. ENERACTIVE was able to include a specialized docking system (manufactured by Poralu Marine) that contained floats filled with polystyrene, allowing them to withstand severe weather conditions. Even in the case of an unlikely puncture or failure, they will still float and can easily be maintained. This coupled with the creative underwater anchoring system (manufactured by Seaflex Inc.) provided the stability needed for optimal performance of the solar array.

Suzanne Chiavari, vice president of engineering at NJAW, took a bold step by commissioning the engineers and consultants at ENERACTIVE to design and install this ground-breaking project. “While the Canoe Brook plant does not have a significant amount of open space, we wanted to examine an innovative solution that could be expanded or potentially used at other water facilities. We know the array will generate power and are anxious to confirm that this new floating technique will be as maintenance-free as our other ground-mounted applications,” she said.

Over the next year, NJAW and ENERACTIVE will evaluate the performance of the array and the extent of maintenance required. They will then determine how they can expand the potential for this type of unique renewable energy system.

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