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Plan to install solar panels at medical center passes muster with planning board

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Members of the Planning Board have directed their attorney to prepare a positive resolution for an application that proposed the construction of a solar panel array over the parking lots at CentraState Medical Center, West Main Street, Freehold Township.

The board took its action on April 19 and the resolution will be memorialized during a future meeting. No additional testimony was presented by representatives of the applicant, KDC Solar CSCP, LLC. Testimony on the plan was presented during the board’s March 15 meeting.

KDC Solar received preliminary and final major site plan approval from the board to construct and maintain a solar panel array for electricity generation consisting of approximately 12,360 panels and generating approximately 5.7 megawatts on canopies in, upon and above existing parking areas at the medical center.

Attorney Keith A. Davis represented the applicant and said the medical center would use the proposed generating facility for electricity consumption in a power purchase agreement with KDC Solar. He said the agreement would reduce the medical center’s energy consumption costs.

KDC Solar received use variance relief for the proposed solar panel canopy accessory use. A solar canopy array is not a permitted use in the zone in which the hospital is located. The applicant also received variance relief for the expansion of the non-conforming business use, variances for minimum front and side yard setbacks, maximum impervious coverage and for existing non-conforming conditions on site.

During previous testimony, engineer Robert C. Moschello said the solar canopies are proposed at four significant locations on the medical center’s campus. He said four transformers will collect the energy from the four sections of solar canopies and route the power into the medical center’s electrical system.

He said said some light poles would be removed during construction and would be replaced with lighting on the underside of the solar canopies.

Moschello said 160 trees in the medical center parking lots would be removed to construct the solar canopies, but 260 trees would be planted at various locations on the campus to make up for the trees that are removed. The engineer said the construction of the solar canopies would occur in a phased plan and would take between nine months and one year to complete.

During the March 15 meeting, several residents of the neighboring Raintree residential community said they believed the proposed solar canopies at the medical center would be visible from their homes.

On April 19, Township Engineer Tim White said he visited Raintree and confirmed the residents were correct in their comments regarding the visibility of the solar panels. White said he and Moschello agreed that additional landscaping with evergreens would provide an appropriate buffer to hide the solar panels from view.

On a motion to prepare a resolution of approval for the KDC Solar application, board Chairman Rich Gatto and board members Patrick Coburn, Apryl Kurtz, Robert Shortmeyer, Kevin Asadi and Leon Bruno Jr. voted “yes.”

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