In terms of solar power, New Jersey is very progressive. New Jersey is a frontrunner in renewable energy production, and currently has the second highest capacity of solar power in the country – California is first. The Garden State’s successful implementation of rebate and incentive programs, as well as its commitment to renewable energy, have enabled it to reach this point.
Below are just a few of the solar projects happening in New Jersey.
The Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel & Conference Center has contracted with Distributed Sun, a solar power company, to bring solar power to the Hotel & Conference Center. The project will include a 1.1-megawatt solar panel system that will produce enough clean energy to offset a portion of the hotel’s energy bills.
Cedar Solar Farm
The Mannington Township Planning Board unanimously approved a 10-megawatt Cedar Solar farm that will be built in Salem County. The project, set to begin in early 2011, is spearheaded by Lincoln Renewable Energy (LRE). . LRE will build the solar power facility on a 129-acre site. The $60 million construction project, said to take six months, will create approximately 100 jobs. LRE’s chief executive, Declan Flanagan, thanked “the Planning Board and the community of Mannington for recognizing the benefits that solar farms can bring to rural communities.”
Pilesgrove Solar Park
On October 20, 2010, developers broke ground on a $90 million South Jersey solar-energy farm, which will be the largest of its kind in the Northeast. Con Edison Development and Panda Power Funds are partnering to build the 71,400 panel solar farm in Pilesgrove Township, Salem County. The Pilesgrove Solar Farm will take about 6 months to complete, sit on about 100 acres of agricultural land, and is expected to create 100 construction jobs. The power produced by the solar farm will be purchased by Atlantic City Electric and is expected to provide power to 5,100 homes. The renewable power created by the solar farm equates to the removal of more then 3,500 cars from the road for each year of operation.
The Pilesgrove Solar Farm another solar energy projects in New Jersey. The Walters Group, a residential and commercial developer, has plans to develop a solar park in Stafford Township. Stafford Park will produce enough energy to power 1,500 homes and eliminate 6,700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of removing 1,200 cars from the road in one year. The Stafford Township Planning Commission approved the project on October 21, 2010, and development is expected to begin early next year.
Stafford Park is currently the only project of its kind seeking LEED certification.
Seeking LEED certification isn’t the only unique aspect of Stafford Park. The Walters Group worked with the Pinelands Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on a species management plan to preserve the natural habitat. The $2 million plan included the relocation of rare plants, construction of a habitat for tree frogs, creation of a new habitat for the northern pine snake and the implementation of an extensive monitoring program. The Walters Group also filled two leaching landfills that were contaminating groundwater. An innovative storm water system was developed to retain all water for onside infiltration, and the entire project is irrigated with recaptured rainwater. According to Joseph Del Duca, partner and general counsel for the Walters Group, “We have utilized the most innovative measures available to redevelop Stafford Park . . . Our efforts have far exceeded what we were required to do by the Pinelands Commission.”
The Stafford Park project also includes rooftop solar panels that will provide 30% of the energy needed to run the proposed retail center, as well as close to 100% of the common area power for the planned affordable housing. Del Duca noted that the 216 apartments awaiting approval will “be the first apartments in the state to have their heating, cooling, and electricity generated by solar energy.” Del Duca also commented that, “[t]he environmental, economic and other public benefits derived from the redevelopment of Stafford Park are undeniable . . . Our firm has made a sustainability commitment, and we are working to eventually use 100 percent renewable energy.”
Development of the Brownfields
New Jersey developers have turned to some interesting sites like toxic waste dumps and overflowing landfills. The state is working to enable development of its 10,000 brownfields, defined under New Jersey law as “any former or current commercial or industrial site that is currently vacant or underutilized and on which there has been, or there is suspected to have been, a discharge of a contaminant.” According to David Bernhaut, vice chairman at Cushman & Wakefield in East Rutherford, “[i]t’s a great way to take non-income-producing land and give it some income.”
In August, bill S-2126 unanimously passed in the state Senate to promote development of solar panels in landfills across the state, as well as in the Pinelands, which has 78 unusable landfills. According to New Jersey Senator Jim Whelan, sponsor of the bill, “New Jersey’s communities – particularly in the Pinelands region – are facing chronic budgetary problems and are quickly using up any developable land in the race for new ratables.”
Brownfield development is a high priority to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Coleen Kokas, manager of the brownfields reuse group at NJDEP stated that, “[a]s soon as Governor Christie announced that he was looking to site solar facilities in landfills, our phones rang off the hook” and “[i]t has been consistent for the past 18 months.”
Public Service and Electric & Gas (PSE&G), the state’s largest utility, is developing brownfields in Trenton and Linden as part of a $515 million, 2 year solar development program. PSE&G is also constructing the Trenton Solar Farm which is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power 207 homes. Al Matos, vice president for renewables and energy solutions for PSE&G, stated that the utility is looking to develop other landfills across New Jersey, although the economics of that development are unknown, “[w]e are all trying to figure out the economic model that works, but we don’t know yet what that will be.”