Controversial Solar Project to Resume Installation After Memorial Day
Officials say they negotiated PSE&Gs plan to put up 500 panels down to fewer than 200
The public utility solar project village officials have been fighting with tooth and nail will resume installation after Memorial Day, as confirmed by both government officials and PSE&G late Friday afternoon.
Although officials are not enamored that the project will be moving further into the village, it's a better outcome than had been proposed.
"We were able to reduce [the number of panels] from 500 to 180," Deputy Mayor Tom Riche said Friday afternoon. "We felt we had a good case."
PSE&G held a meeting with village officials and staff on Wednesday to address some of the concerns officials said needed answering before they could ease into the idea of 5-foot by 2-foot panels sprouting up on utility poles.
PSE&G halted its $515 million project in Ridgewood over the winter after a war of words ensued with Riche–who's made his views well known in The New York Times, Reuters, and Fox News–and numerous public officials from North Jersey.
The project, one of the largest in the country, is set to be completed in late 2012, and is touted by PSE&G to power 6,500 homes annually and will remove the equivalent of 3,800 carbon dioxide and sulfur oxides generated by vehicles.
The panels are installed 15-feet off the ground and require southern exposure. Each panel is said by PSE&G to replace some of the need for traditional fossil fuels, and produces Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), a federal buyback program. Ratepayers will see a monthly increase by a range around 20 cents PSE&G officials have confirmed, though the utility claims the money is returned to ratepayers in the form of fossil fuel reduction.
Approximately 92,000 units have been installed and many municipalities have fought to prevent PSE&G from installing them; the utility claims it does not need permission after receiving the go-ahead from the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
But few, if any, have been as successful as Ridgewood in reducing PSE&G's aims.
Ridgewood's concerns ranged from interference with the Gamewell emergency system, heavy snow fall that could accumulate on panels and injure passersby, a claim of blighting the Historic District as well as lowering property values.
The panels will not be placed in the Historic homes or buildings, nor decorative light poles, Riche said.
"We're satisfied that there will be no interference [with the Gamewell system]," he added. Riche said the village is still in discussions with PSE&G as to the access it will have on the poles should an emergency arise.
Given PSE&G's slow response in fixing out street lights, multiple officials expressed skepticism the utility will be fleet of foot in providing access.
"We're still working on the best outcome for the village," Village Engineer Chris Rutishauser said Friday. "They're still pushing it on us and we're still pushing back. They say they have the BPU and law on their side, we say we're the ones dealing with it."
Al Matos, vice president for renewables and energy solutions for PSE&G said the direct benefit of the panels is immense by taking up zero land space in a crowded state, which under traditional solar farms would require 170 acres be set aside.
“These solar units bring the direct benefit of clean, renewable energy to all our customers since the electricity they generate is used in homes and businesses in the immediate neighborhood,” Matos said.
Ridgewood officials concede that although there's been some public outcry from residents against the project, some welcome the panels.
"We want to listen to what the residents say," Riche said. "Hopefully in five or ten years, there's something to replace it."
But all things considered, he said, it's a "pretty good outcome."
"I think the staff has done a really good job in negotiating," the Deputy Mayor remarked.
The village is currently reviewing a map of where every panel is to be placed and will have information available on the village website shortly.