Gloucester Township and state officials gathered at the municipality’s police training center on Oct. 27 to break ground on the GEMS solar park, a 25 acre project that will be built over the cap of the former landfill and the remediated Superfund site at the intersection of Hickstown and New Brooklyn-Erial roads.
The township started the solar park process in 2015, and six years later on Nov. 19, it will begin construction. The effort will be led by Syncarpha Capital, a New York based community-shared and solar-project developer, and Blue Sky Power, the township’s energy consultant. Work will be financed by Syncarpha, which will lease the park to the township for 25 years, and is expected to be complete next spring.
The new park will have a generation capacity of 4.5 MW DC and produce 6,086,000 kilowatt hours per year, offsetting greenhouse gas by 4,313 metric tons of carbon dioxide; 10.8 million miles driven by a typical passenger vehicle; or 4.7 million pounds of coal burned, according to a visual image provided by the two companies.
In addition to the environmental benefits, Mayor David Mayer said there were also financial benefits to creating the park. In the next 25 years, it is expected to generate $1 million in revenues, about $40,000 per year that the township will be able to use as revenue.
Blue Sky Power CEO Ben Parvey noted that the solar park would be used on a utility scale, like the solar park in Timber Creek, and would provide energy back to the grid rather than being used directly by the municipality.
State senators Stephen Sweeney and Fred Madden and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty emphasized the uniqueness of the park being built on a former landfill and Superfund site.
“It’s a story that started in the 1950s, when this municipal dump was opened,” Mayer explained.
He added that while past generations may not have known or thought about the pollution they created, today’s generation focuses on the environmental impact now and in the future.
“ … We’ve taken this land that was unusable and made it usable, both environmentally and financially,” Mayer noted.
Along with Madden, the mayor also thanked former Congressman James Florio for the 1980 creation of the Superfund program to remediate hazardous waste sites.
“This was one of the worst sites in the country, and it’s now being brought back to life in a very positive way generating clean energy,” explained Sweeney, state senate president and a former hazardous waste instructor.
“I remember training people to clean this up, and to be here and see it put to a better use, that’s what this is all about when you do some legislation,” he added.
Each speaker at the groundbreaking praised Mayer and his administration for their forward thinking and commitment to a greener environment.
“This is nothing new in Gloucester Township,” Moriarty said. “While many communities in New Jersey have been thinking about it and planning things, the people here in Gloucester Township, Mayor Mayer and council, they’ve been doing this for over a decade. They’ve been active.”
Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash took that a step further and thanked the senators for their work.
“ … To take that property, which has zero value to the community, and turn it into something that produces renewable energy while benefiting the municipality financially, it is a brilliant piece of legislation,” Nash remarked. “Senate president, and to your colleagues, you have come up with an idea that every state in this country should match.”
“As we break this ground, let us be truly groundbreaking,” Parvey concluded. “Not just on this project, but on the future of the electric revolution.”