Here Comes the Sun – Solar Power on the Piers
From a distance, Morey’s Piers “It” ride dazzles in the dark with over 128,000 individual light bulbs that cover its spindly arms as it flies through the air. The Giant Wheel on Seaside Pier contains roughly 130,000 individual LED lights. On a busy day, the Sea Serpent and the Great Nor’Easter can make around 140-160 dispatches on a busy day. All of that action adds up to a whole lot of kilowatts of energy used up every day and night at our parks and piers.
“We have a 7-figure electric bill annually,” says Joe Cleary, Morey’s CFO.
Anyone who’s endured a nasty sunburn knows the power of the sun on a hot summer day at the shore. It’s on those scorching, humid days, when everyone rushes to the water’s edge for some relief, that the electrical grid is especially overburdened. And it’s on those days that Morey’s Piers is busiest.
“Some companies might wait out the high-burden days and reduce their electric use, but an amusement pier doesn’t have that luxury,” Joe says.
In 2018, Morey’s Piers made a big decision to harness the power of the sun and offset our energy consumption, installing 901 P17 345-watt solar panels on the roof of several maintenance buildings (located at 2710 Boardwalk). Next, we put solar panel systems on the Pan-American and Port Royal Hotels. In December 2019, the Runaway Tramcar ride even got a solar treatment, with the addition of a set of panels on its loading station.
It was a six-figure investment, and one that has paid off, both in energy saved and on the electric bills. The Hunt’s pier panel system generates 100% of the energy it consumes. The hotels’ systems offset around 15% of their energy use. We’re pretty pleased with the numbers so far. Overall, the solar systems should save 800,000 kilowatts of electricity per year, 337 tons of carbon dioxide from the air, 126,000 trees, and 32 million pounds of oxygen. Since installing solar energy, that means Morey’s has helped avoid 8.66 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s equal to 21,489 miles driven, 974 gallons of gasoline, 9,542 pounds of coal burned, or 1,104,429 smart phones charged. (See our infographic for a full run-down.)
“When people are on the beach and on the piers the system is producing the most,” says Kevin Hamm, Senior Solar Adviser for Geoscape Solar, the company that provides the solar panels for Morey’s. “If it’s a cloudy rainy day and people are indoors, the system is not producing as much. The production follows how people enjoy the park and the beach.”
So, when the sun is shining and the days are long, and our piers are thrown into overdrive, the solar panels get to work as well, helping to offset some of our energy usage and saving on those electric bills.
"The amount of solar energy produced is more about the length of a summer day than the strength of the sun", Kevin says.
On a cloudy day, solar panels are still producing energy, but the volume of watts is more the longer and brighter the day. Morey’s was the first amusement park client Geoscape Solar has worked with, so fixing up the curved Runaway Tramcar ride building was a bit of a challenge.
“It’s not a typical attachment,” says Joe. “We definitely had to get creative in the engineering to attach the panels.”
More than a feeling
For the staff at Morey’s, the notion of sustainability isn’t just a concept.
“We are on the ocean side of the boardwalk on a barrier island,” says Joe. “We are very sensitive to sustainability, the impact of rising waters, we can see it here. It’s not a philosophical debate.”
A barrier island is a long broad sandy island that runs parallel to the shore – like Wildwood does. It’s created over time by waves, wind and ocean currents, and it protects the mainland from the impact of the ocean. That means that we’re the first to see flooding or changing water levels, before the main island does.
But sustainability efforts can come with a hefty price tag – or so Joe thought. When the idea of outfitting Morey’s with solar panels first came up, “I was suspicious,” he says.
“My thinking is always, I know it’s green, but does it translate to ‘green’?” he jokes.
But we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the results of our investment in solar. Combining our savings on electric with incentives New Jersey provides businesses that use solar, we expect to totally pay off the upfront investment within four years.
Kevin admits that solar panels are also low maintenance. He says that even with the high winds and salt air that come with shore living (#saltlife), solar panel systems come with a 25-year warranty and generally don’t need to be managed, cleaned or replaced.
The solar panel systems are part of a larger plan for Morey’s to reduce waste and become more sustainable. You might notice compostable take-out containers in our restaurants. And did you know that the Ferris wheel is powered by LED light bulbs? That means they use 75-80% less energy than standard light bulbs. Going forward, we are looking at more efficient motors for rides, too, Joe says.
Out of sight
What can we say? We’re a little vain. When considering solar power, Jack and Will Morey were a little concerned that big panels might distract our guests from their experience on the piers. For the most part, our solar panel systems are out of sight.
“If you are in an airplane or a drone, you’ll see them very clearly. Otherwise, we’ve kept them out of the way,” says Joe. Check out these seagull’s eye-view photos of the solar panels.
One spot where guests can see and even feel the power of solar energy are the solar powered cabanas at PigDog Beach Bar, which are made from recycled materials and harness the power of the sun so that lucky guests can cool off under a fan, flip on a light switch, charge their phones, and even chill their drinks in a mini fridge, all powered by six solar panels installed on top. Talk about prime beach real estate!
What’s next for our solar power initiatives? All we can say is to keep a lookout in the next year or so: our next solar power venture might be much more visible.