PRINCETON: Solar panels to be installed at old municipal dump

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority will get energy from around 8,000 solar panels that will be installed at the old municipal dump off River Road, even though the Authority will be only saving a fraction on its overall energy bill.
Mayor Liz Lempert, appearing Monday at a groundbreaking, said “we’re making good use of something that otherwise is laying fallow.”
In the arrangement, the town is leasing out the land for 15 years so that NJR Clean Energy Ventures can produce the energy that the authority will use when the solar array begins operating later this summer. The first batch of panels started being installed about a month ago, with many more to come as the site will be covered with them.
Councilman Bernard P. Miller, who helped shepherd the project from the town’s side of things, said the authority will buy energy at less than its costs buying from the grid, while NJR Clean Energy Ventures will own and operate the solar array.
“It uses a closed municipal dump as the site for a solar array that will provide approximately three megawatts of renewable energy or about twenty-five percent of the peak energy needs of the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority,” Miller said.
The authority treats waste water for Princeton and five other towns in the region, an entity with a roughly $15 million budget, with about $4 million of it for energy costs. Using solar energy will save the authority $100,000 a year, said authority chairman Robert A. Bartolini.
“This fits in nicely with fiscal responsibility for us,” he said.
The project took six years to realize, something the then-former borough and township were interested in doing. But a sharp drop in the renewable energy market delayed things.
The town turned to GeoPeak Energy, a Somerset-based company, as its contractor to put the project together, from design and engineering. AJ Javan, a managing partner with GeoPeak, said his company was able to maximize the available space on the land to produce more energy than first thought, from 1.1 megawatts to nearly three.
“Our solution was unique because we doubled the size of what they expected could fit on this entire area,” he said.
Asked how he did it, Javan said, “a little bit of proprietary engineering.”
For their part, Princeton officials see the project fitting into the town’s makeup as an environmentally friendly community. In his remarks, Miller said the timing of the groundbreaking came only days after President Donald J. Trump announced he was pulling the country out the Paris climate deal.
“I believe that we’ve come to realize that if our elected national leadership doesn’t take its responsibility to protect the planet for future generations seriously,” Miller said, “the leadership to do this must come from our state and local officials.”