Solar energy will provide power for asphalt plant

JACKSON – A new solar energy facility will provide renewable energy for an existing asphalt plant in Jackson.

During a recent meeting of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment, representatives of the Earle Co. Solar Facility sought a use variance and municipal approval to construct a solar energy facility on Hope Chapel Road.

Engineer and planner William Stevens, who testified on behalf of the applicant, said, “The Municipal Land Use Law in New Jersey has been changed to allow people (to use) about 20 acres of an industrial site to have solar as a permitted use. We have 28 acres, this is an industrial park, however, it is zoned Pinelands Manufacturing, it is not zoned industrial, so technically we do need a use variance.”

The solar energy facility will be part of the Earle Industrial Park and provide power to the asphalt plant across the street, according to the testimony.

“The proposal is to build a solar array on the south side of Earle Way, which is the road to get into the industrial park, over a couple of the proposed industrial lots as well as over the retention basin,” Stevens said.

The retention basin will have solar panels that are removable and Stevens said the solar energy facility will be solely for the company’s use.

“The idea is to provide renewable energy to power an industry we already have in Jackson, so we see that as a benefit to the township,” Stevens said.

Board member Scott Najarian asked where excess energy that is produced by the solar facility will go.

Engineer and planner John Cote of Langan Engineering, who testified specifically about solar energy, said the asphalt plant will use more power than the solar array can generate and said there will not be excess power generated.

Board member John Suttles asked what percentage of the asphalt plant’s power needs will be served by solar energy.

The applicant’s professionals said a majority of the asphalt plant’s power will come from the solar arrays.

Suttles asked for an estimate and Stevens said, “The solar facility is sized to supply 95 percent of the power required for the asphalt plant.”

Stevens described the application as a “win-win” for Jackson because it will provide renewable energy with no environmental impact.

“This is a real benefit to, again, provide for the industrial/commercial uses here in town and the real bonus here, too, is, and I know this board and Jackson have heard a lot about solar (energy) in the past year or so, but there are no trees to be cleared, we are reusing some of the land,” Stevens said.

At the conclusion of the professionals’ testimony, board member Peter Maher made a motion the approve the application and to grant to use variance.

“I think this is a great application, I like what you are doing putting (solar panels) above the retention basin. It is a clean operation. I have all the confidence in the world in the Earle corporation. They have to be one of the cleanest contractors I have ever seen,” Maher said.

Suttles seconded the motion and called the application positive.

Stephen Costanzo, the board’s chairman, congratulated the applicant’s representatives on a “very clean and forthright” application and thanked the Earle Co. for conducting its business in Jackson. He said the firm is an asset to the business community in the township.

Board members voted unanimously to grant the use variance for the solar energy facility.