Representatives from the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) and PATCO met with local state elected officials in Voorhees Township on Aug. 5 to officially unveil plans and recent work on one of the largest transportation-related alternative energy initiatives in the greater Philadelphia area.
The solar energy project, done in partnership with the SunPower Corporation, includes the installation of more than 50,000 solar panels along with 133 high-efficiency solar photovoltaic parking canopies at seven sites.
The Ashland, Lindenwold, Woodcrest and Ferry Avenue PATCO station sites are undergoing improvements through the initiative, while the Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross bridges will also get additional solar panel technology. The DRPA headquarters is also scheduled for improvements.
The solar initiative is expected to provide more than 50 percent of the total electricity consumption through solar energy for the DRPA and PATCO, and save the DRPA $12 million over the next 20 years through energy savings.
“That is being a good steward of the environment and is fiscally prudent,” said DRPA Chairman Ryan Boyer. In attendance for the presentation was Congressman Donald Norcross, who addressed the importance of the solar energy project.
“One of the largest users of electricity in South Jersey is DRPA/PATCO, and when we’re talking about changing that into solar, clean energy that is renewable, that’s a remarkable change,” Norcross said. “We can help save our country from unneeded pollution.”
According to information provided by DRPA/PATCO, the project is expected to produce approximately 27 million kilowatt hours of energy in its first year of use, enough to offset 21 million pounds of coal or the carbon dioxide emissions produced by more than two million gallons of gasoline.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, also in attendance for the event, discussed the need for changes in consumption through alternative energies and creation of local jobs.
“Clean energy and jobs, they go together,” he said. “Thinking about how we’re going to move forward and provide a clean environment and the energy … Everyone’s scared of this transformation but it’s a good transformation.
“This is where we want to be; these are the types of projects that we want to do.”
Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash, who is also vice chairman of the DRPA, said the project had been in the works for many years before work started. The steps toward a public transit system fueled by mostly clean energy, Nash said, show the massive advancements the region has made in just a few decades.
“The project is really a long time coming for those of us who have been working on it for many years,” Nash explained. “In 1926, with the opening of the Ben Franklin Bridge, we celebrated the ability to cross the Delaware River by a car. In 1969, with the construction of PATCO, we were able to (for the first time) cross the river by train. And today, we celebrate because we are able to cross the Delaware River by the sun, and that’s an important day for the Delaware Valley.
“It’s an important day for the Delaware Valley,” Nash added, “because we are reducing our carbon footprint in a time where it is so critical that we do everything that we can to save our environment.”
PATCO’s Ashland Station has 20 solar canopies with 7,540 total solar panels on its grounds. Representatives of DRPA/PATCO said that construction should be complete in approximately three months, with the entire seven projects completed sometime in 2021.
Voorhees Township Mayor Michael Mignogna was in attendance at the announcement to celebrate the ongoing renovations at the Ashland station. After the event, Mignogna said the work is yet another step toward being more environmentally friendly and sustainable within the township.
“We are proud of our efforts in Voorhees to improve our environment,” the mayor added. “We have attained Silver Certification from Sustainable Jersey for our efforts to be green. This is the highest level. We are pleased to be the home of such a wonderful solar project by the DRPA and PATCO.”