Solar energy project approved at Legler site

Staff Writer

Jackson officials have authorized the execution of a power purchase agreement (PPA) and lease option for a solar power project that has been in the works for a number of years.

Following a unanimous vote of approval from the Township Council on June 26, HESP Solar will be the energy provider linked to a photovoltaic system that will be constructed at the Lakehurst Avenue site that was once the home of the Legler landfill.

HESP Solar, of Suffern, N.Y., was one of two energy providers to respond to a request for proposals from Jackson earlier this year. For years, local officials have said the potential solar power project was only to be completed under a PPA.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a PPA is a “financial arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates and maintains the photovoltaic (PV) system,” while the customer (Jackson) agrees to house the necessary equipment “on its roof or elsewhere on its property.” The power generated by the PV system is then purchased by the customer for a predetermined period.

Under the approved terms, HESP Solar will install solar panels at the Leger site. Jackson will lease the land to the company.

Once the PV system has been installed, Jackson will purchase power generated by the solar farm for15years,witha2percentannual increase, with rates beginning at $0.0625 per kilowatt hour.

Under the agreement, HESP Solar will pay Jackson a total of about $1.9 million during the 15- year lease.

According to official documents, SunEdison, of Pennsauken Township, offered to sell its energy at a flat rate of $0.053 per kilowatt hour for 15 years. While that bid offered energy at a lower cost, the bid did not include an annual payment to lease the land.

The Legler property was classified as a toxic federal Superfund site more than 30 years ago. Because of the area’s toxic nature, residents have balked at the prospect of any construction on the property due to a concentra- tion of potentially explosive methane gases at the former landfill.

According to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the former landfill is tested on a quarterly basis for methane. The test results are sent to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The Legler property totals 135 acres, but the PV system will be constructed on an unused portion of the property, away from the capped landfill, according to the plans.