HOWELL – The members of the Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment are expected to hear additional testimony on Dec. 13 regarding an applicant’s proposal to construct a solar energy project on Victory Road.
Victory Road runs between Maxim-Southard Road and Lakewood-Farmingdale Road.
The applicant, IPP Solar, LLC, and the property owners, Stavola Realty Company and Stavola Construction Materials Inc., are seeking a conditional use variance, preliminary and final major subdivision approval, and preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct a 23-acre, 4.7-megawatt solar facility consisting of two solar panel arrays, two concrete pads for equipment, a 7-foot tall chain-link perimeter security fence and two 26-foot-wide gravel access drives at the location.
Additional associated site improvements include storm water management basins and buffer landscaping, and electric utility improvements on an adjacent lot to connect the proposed solar energy facility to the Jersey Central Power and Light electric grid network on Victory Road.
Attorney Salvatore Alfieri, engineer Christopher Rosati and Kyle Weise of Trident Environmental represented the application at the Nov. 22 zoning board meeting.
Alfieri said IPP Solar is under contract to purchase the property from the Stavola company. The attorney called on Rosati to describe the proposal.
Rosati said the tract has frontage on Victory Road. Part of the property (20 acres) is in a Special Economic Development zone and part of the property (8 acres) is in an Agricultural Rural Estate zone. There are wetlands on a portion of the property, he said.
“The tract is bounded by Victory Road in the north, industrial uses to the south and east, and residential uses along Victory Road, and small driveway access to the west. A Conrail right of way bisects the tract and is that division line to the zone,” Rosati said.
The site is currently fully wooded. The applicant is proposing to remove 22 acres of trees to construct solar arrays that will produce about 4.7-megawatts of electricity, he testified.
Rosati said the end user of the power generated by the project would be New Jersey Natural Gas. To the southeast of the site there is a New Jersey Natural Gas facility that stores natural gas in a frozen state and releases it to the company’s grid on an as-needed basis.
“This facility is an enormous user of electrical power. They use approximately 4.5 to 12 million kilowatt hours per year and that is an enormous power user for the area. … In a perfect world would we be on a wooded site? No, but we are limited to what we can do as far as adding solar to this site and again, this site is a massive user of electricity,” Rosati said.
IPP Solar is proposing to install ground-mounted solar panel arrays. Rosati said, “The proposed arrays will meet approximately 80% of the yearly load for that system; 1.5 megawatts will be provided by the west array and 3.2 megawatts will be produced by the east array.”
Access to each solar array will be from Victory Road.
“The array system will consist of 7,500 solar panels on the east array and 3,600 solar panels on the west array. Each panel is about 6.5 feet by 3.5 feet in size,” Rosati said, explaining that the maximum height of the proposed panels is about 10 feet.
Zoning board member Glenn Cantor expressed concern that the IPP Solar application does not benefit Howell.
“You are taking out an enormous amount of trees, so how would you answer the question for residents of how this (proposal) benefits us?” Cantor asked.
Alfieri said the planner who will be called to testify on behalf of the applicant will address that issue.
Zoning board member Richard Mertens said he was on “the same wavelength” as Cantor regarding concerns with the IPP Solar application.
“I have a planning issue with it, so I will wait for their planner,” Mertens said.
The IPP Solar application was carried to the Dec. 13 zoning board meeting.