Old Bridge officials: Community solar power project on former Global Landfill site a ‘win-win’

Eric Sucar
Rob O'Connell (left) and Brian Green (right) work on a section of the Tinton Falls Solar Farm located on Shafto Road in Tinton Falls on June 26. Approximately 85,000 solar panels are currently being installed on the 100-acre farm, which will become the largest in the northeast United States.

OLD BRIDGE – The township has approved a community solar power project on the former Global Landfill site.

“For years the site has been dormant,” Township Planner Veena Sawant said. “A developer came forward with a good idea.”

AC Power LLC, N.Y., is the designated developer for the site. The developer presented its proposal at a Township Council meeting in February and garnered immediate support from township officials and Council.

The Council approved an ordinance to adopt a redevelopment plan for Global Landfill and adjacent properties at a meeting in July.

The Planning Board conducted a preliminary investigation study of the Global Landfill Study Area. A public hearing was held in April.

The study, based on the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL), identified critical issues that satisfied the redevelopment criteria to deem the site “an area in need of redevelopment.”

The issues included “abundance of vacant and underutilized land, deleterious land use as a former landfill, and tax liens and diverse ownership.”

The redevelopment plan creates a new zone for the site – Former Global Landfill Zone (FGL) – that would allow three permitted uses – open space, passive recreation, and solar energy facilities.

There is no overlay from the previous zone – Environmentally Sensitive/Recreation (ER) Zone, officials said.

The purpose of the FGL zone is to establish areas that will provide new development opportunities for solar energy and recreational facilities and open space on a former landfill site and vacant and underutilized parcels within the redevelopment area, according to the redevelopment plan.

The redevelopment area abuts the northeastern municipal boundary of Old Bridge and the southwestern municipal boundary of Sayreville and is located west of Cheesequake Creek.

The Global Landfill Study Area consists of six parcels measuring approximately 130 acres, Sawant said.

The largest property within the area is the landfill site with 57 acres of the land use site. The total lot and block area is 95 acres.

Globa Landfill Reclaiming Corporation operated as a solid waste disposal company from 1968 to 1984, according to the redevelopment plan.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) remediated the site and capped the landfill, Sawant said.

The EPA and NJDEP monitors the site every five years. The first monitoring occurred in 2015 and the next monitoring occurred in 2020.

The Global Landfill Community Solar project includes 4.5 MWdc solar array situated on 16 acres of flat surface of landfill cap, which will power approximately 750 New Jersey homes over 20 years.

Solar will be located on a concrete system, which does not disturb the landfill cap and is preferred by the NJDEP.

The benefits of community solar include 15-25% savings on electric bills to subscribers, improves utility infrastructure and resiliency, and it provides additional environmental benefits such as native vegetation and habitat preservation.

Sawant said the solar project is consistent with the township’s masterplan and is consistent with neighboring Sayreville, which has the first floating solar energy facility for its municipal utility.

Township officials said it’s important to note, with the solar project, the township will gain a new revenue stream.

Currently, the township is receiving nothing for the site and is collecting no taxes; however, because the property has a value on the books, under state statute it requires payment for the school and county taxes, Business Administrator Himanshu Shah said.

“We’re paying for the school and county [taxes], we’re not collecting, it’s a negative impact,” he said. “[The solar project] will generate revenue to the town and eliminate those unnecessary tax burdens for the taxpayers of Old Bridge.”

Township Attorney Mark Roselli said the owner of the site has been “long gone.”

“The township has tax liens on the property, but they are nowhere to be found,” he said.

As part of the agreement, Roselli said there will be a “poison pill” in the agreement.

“For whatever reason these types of sites become the panacea, and somebody wants to pay $15 million for it. In that case, they have to pay us our tax lien. We’re going to protect [the property with] the tax lien and to make sure that does not happen,” he said.

Roselli said for a property not used for anything, the solar power project is an opportunity to bring the site into utilization.

“This is an ability for the town to generate some revenue for something that is costing them money,” he said.

The solar facility only covers about 1% of the land use site and will provide a community benefit, officials said.

Residents and the township can subscribe to the solar energy provider for a fee and can see a 20% reduction in their utility bills, officials said.

Ward 2 Councilman Erik DePalma said the proposed project will bring a “negative into a positive.”

“It’s not only costing taxpayers, it’s also a blight,” he said. “They did the same thing in Monroe off Perrineville [Road] and I pass by that facility every time I go see my parents that live in Monroe. It’s a very good positive. Some residents will receive a reduction in their electricity bills [which is a plus] especially nowadays. It’s an absolute win-win for not only the township, but also the residents.”