New Jersey is roughly a year after Governor Phil Murphy's Energy Master Plan, which is committed to 100% clean energy across the state by 2050.
A new proposal in the Phillipsburg region aims to help achieve the government's goal of accelerating the development of renewable energies.
Phoebus Fund LLC, based in Williamstown, Gloucester County, is proposing the installation of 22 megawatts of solar power on farmland along the 1700 block of Belvidere Road in Lopatcong Township.
The proposal is unique in that the panels are installed 15 to 17 feet above the ground so that most of the land can still be farmed, according to Andrew Kennedy, partner with the Phoebus Fund. It's a concept known as agrivoltaics that has been used in Italy, Germany, Japan, and Arizona, he said.
“We can grow almost anything under these plates,” said Kennedy. “In addition, our equipment serves as the foundation for irrigation and other types of agricultural equipment so that the farm can not only continue to operate, but even improve over time.”
Kennedy described the proposal in a presentation Tuesday to Phillipsburg City Council. The Phoebus Fund wants the city to enter into a power purchase agreement for power from the array through a unique legal structure in New Jersey known as Remote Net Metering, available to public facilities.
“This allows us to sell the electricity through the net metering program to a public facility from locations that are not on a public facility property,” said Kennedy.
The city benefits include securing a clean source of energy with projected savings of nearly 40% compared to current municipal electricity costs, Kennedy said. That's equivalent to about $ 200,000 to $ 230,000 in annual savings, he said.
In turn, the property farmer receives a diversified source of income by agreeing to host the panels. The only land lost to agriculture is in a series of maintenance strips next to the panels.
The Phoebus Fund is working on 62 megawatts of solar power generation in JCP&L, representing an investment of around $ 110 million. Overall, the company plans to create approximately 2,100 construction jobs in Warren County alone, in addition to ongoing jobs to manage and maintain the sites, Kennedy said.
The city council took no action on the proposal but did answer a few questions, including the longevity of the panels. They are guaranteed to maintain at least 90% of their potential production for 25 years and are 98% recyclable, Kennedy responded to a question from Councilor Danielle DeGerolamo.
Rob Bengivenga Jr., Phillipsburg's company administrator, told lehighvalleylive.com that there is no timeline to delve into the proposal and that the city is conducting its due diligence on the idea.
“We want to make sure Phillipsburg has no risk and only benefits,” he said.
Kennedy also presented the idea to Lopatcong Town Council. No decision was made there either, said Mayor James Mengucci.
“To be honest, I found it interesting myself,” said Mengucci. “It's definitely something new.”
According to Kennedy, New Jersey will need to install about 1,000 megawatts of solar power annually for the next 15 years, and then 400 megawatts per year to meet the governor's goal. Last year, around 200 megawatts of solar power were installed in the state, Kennedy said.
“In partnership with government agencies, we look forward to actively working towards the New Jersey clean energy goals while supporting the New Jersey economy, creating local jobs and receiving the financial benefits of solar power savings at home,” he said.
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Kurt Bresswein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.