It was a packed house for the Upper Pittsgrove meeting regarding the Stella Solar project, or American Green Power Holding’s solar project, or whoever, they’re one and the same, Ed Stella is VP of American Green Power Holding, and according to their SEC filing, he did an “arms length” lease agreement with himself!  From which he’ll get $1.3 million annually for ~600 acres of land.  … sigh… I am really in the wrong business.  It’s time to put together a vaporware project!

There were so many people that they decided to hold this part of the Planning meeting at the Grange Hall, so when they were done with the first agenda item, then everybody came over to the Grange.  All the chairs were filled, and there was hour after hour of good questions.

In New Jersey, towns get an escrow to hire experts to review an application, and in this case, their experts are good.  Sarah Birdsall, particularly, did a good analysis.  I need to get the scanner working and post it.  She’s requesting that the Town require a copy of the Power Purchase Agreement — I also want to see the PJM application.

UPDATE: I’d looked at the PJM queue, but I didn’t go back far enough.  It’s in the “V” queue, and per Rania, their engineer, there are five 20MW queue spots, but I found 6, plus a 3MW, in Upper Pittsgrove (she’d said Shirley substation) so ???  Anyway, let’s get those feasibility studies in the record!  And the rest as they come out.  Given what the distribution system looks like there, and the low load, I’m not believing they can add in 100MW without some infrastructure changes, like substation expansion, new transmission (reconductored?  bundled?  double circuit?).  We shall see.

The other thing that I think is really important is the economics of this, which Birdsall gets to when she wants a copy of the PPA.  They don’t have one yet, and with the kidns of payments going to Stella under the lease, $1.3 million annually, and a $7.5 million kicker when they get the regulatory and land use permits nailed down, it’s very hard to see how a solar project would or could cash flow with those kinds of outgoes.  That lease and $7.5 could well make the project unmarketable.

Here’s the report from Today’s Sunbeam:

Upper Pittsgrove solar farm plan tabled – for now

Saturday, March 20, 2010
By Phil Dunn

UPPER PITTSGROVE TWP- A proposal to build a 512-acre solar farm here was tabled at Thursday night’s land use board meeting after over 200 residents filled the Elmer Grange to ask questions and express their concerns about the project.

The land use board decided to table the issue to gather more information from their own professionals to provide a clearer picture of how this plan will or will not fit into the township’s master plan.

“I think this is being rammed through at record speed and we should slow down and really take a look at this application,” said resident Mike Mathis.

The project as it stands right now is split into two sections – an east and west site.

The east parcel in total is comprised of 177 acres of farmland located near the intersection of U.S. Route 40 and Burlington Road. Ninety acres of that property would be used for solar panels.

The west parcel would be located along Route 77 and its intersections with Newkirk Station Road, Colson Road, Bridgeton Road and Jefferson Road. Of that 681-acre property, 422 acres would be used for solar panels.

“This is a horrible idea and bad planning to put solar panels on what potentially could be the downtown area of Upper Pittsgrove,” said Mathis. “I don’t see an upside to this.”

The applicant, Atlantic Green Power provided a three dimensional rendering of what the solar farms will look like if implemented. Extensive landscaping will surround the facility minimizing the site of the panels with trees. Fencing will also be put up for security.

“Eight-foot high evergreen trees will be planted in front of an eight-foot high fence,” said Evan Hill, engineer for Atlantic Green Power.

The fence will also have a one or two inch gap at the bottom to allow for small wildlife to enter and exit the site, said Hill.

Though the project will cover a roughly 850-acre area the actual surface area that will be covered with panels is quite less.

“The surface area of panels for the project includes approximately 75 acres over the entire 858 acres site,” said Hill. “That is nine percent of the total developable land.”

In total, the project will generate 72 megawatts of electric that will be sold to Atlantic City Electric Co. This is enough electricity to service 7,000 homes.

Issues of additional electric poles needed to transfer energy from the solar panels to the PJM power grid were still unclear as Director of Technology and Strategic Planning Rania K. Pontikos said those studies are not complete as of yet.

Resident Nancy Merritt expressed at the meeting that she believed Atlantic Green Power is not in this for the environmental benefits, but they are developing the project strictly to make a profit.

“This is a for-profit project,” said Merritt. “No one is in it to save the planet. They want to make a profit.”

Other residents brought up noise concerns and the potential of decreased value to their property.

The noise would come from approximately 80 inverter cooling units that will be placed throughout the 512 acre site.

Steve Vavirk, sworn in as an expert witness from Sun Energy, said roughly 65 decibels of sound will be given off from the cooling inverters.

Vavirk said the refrigerator-size inverters give off a noise similar to that of an air conditioning unit.

“We all heard the Orchard Substation wasn’t going to produce noise, but come by my house and hear that going 24/7,” said Merritt, referring to Atlantic City Electric’s facility on Bridgeton Road in the township.

Vavirk said the inverter will run only in the daytime when the panels are producing energy, but will turn off at night.

No decision making will be made on the application until at least the May land use board meeting.

Land Use Board Solicitor George Rosenberger said the board has roughly 90 days to make a decision or ask for an extension.

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