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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 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– 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.

The Fly May 21, 2011 at 03:31 AM
This is indeed a "pretty good outcome." Nice job by Deputy Mayor Riche and Mr. Rutishauser. Let's just hope that PSE&G doesn't come back next year with a request to install the 320 panels they agreed not to install this year.
Dominick Nizza May 21, 2011 at 10:47 AM
@"pretty good outcome" response is a typical "do nothing" Village knee jerk delay and only muddy up the process even more. It only delays the process even more and keeps our town engineer busy and maintains the usual "status quo". "Pretty Good" is not good enough.
Nancy May 21, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I think that Ridgewood has enough flat roofs in it to put in grids, and that the power company should be able to but the panels on top of those buildings. The preschool by the NYSC, the NYSC, etc. That way PSEG gets the solar power it wants and we won't have the panels on our roads, escpecially near the center of town.
Dominick Nizza May 21, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Most people don't understand that these power grids also provide power to the lights on those poles that serve as an emergency power source, including street stop and go intersections etc. PSE&G Co. should provide this added information, it would help.
Ridgewood Mom May 22, 2011 at 01:13 PM
A noble effort on the part of Ridgewood officials. Shame on PSE&G. I hope that this is not the end to this story. PSE&G's interests in this project must not be understood as working in the interests of the community. Nor can their flagrant disregard for community interests be accepted as within their rights.
Matt M May 22, 2011 at 10:16 PM
The real shame is on the leadership of Ridgewood for stalling and reducing the PSE&G original plans that other communities in New Jersey have been able to comply without any major problems. This is a forward thinking strategy to try to at least make a step toward renewable energy. I for one welcome the solar panels, do not see them as eyesores, and believe any safety concerns have been adequately addressed by PSE&G.
Ridgewood Mom May 23, 2011 at 01:05 PM
The issue has never been one, for anyone, about whether or not clean energy was a good thing. All sides have agreed, all along, that clean energy is a good thing.
Ridgewood Mom May 25, 2011 at 01:03 AM
Now here's a serious constructive solution. Let's have Ridgewood residents fill out an informal survey about whether they would like the panels in front of their homes or not. Those who are in favor may opt to be amongst the 180 who get to have panels in front of their homes. Those who do not wish them can opt out.
RdgwdGRock May 25, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Driver along Paramus Road, and you will see these panels one after the other. They are a blight. I'm all for clean energy, but as Nancy pointed out, there are plenty of buildings in Ridgewood that can accommodate these panels.
John M June 01, 2011 at 06:17 PM
What a shame that when PSE&G tries to do the RIGHT thing by installing solar panels, Ridgewood NIMBYs find it absolutely necessary to halt any sort of progress in the right direction. Folks, they're just solar panels - not like PSE&G is putting a coal power plant behind Vet's Field. As a former Ridgewood resident, I am proud of my decision to leave and never come back especially considering the ignorance of a few vocal residents and knee-jerk local politicians.
Matt M June 02, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Amen.

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