Princeton, N.J. Seeks Bidders for Solar Project at Decades-Old Landfill

Princeton, N.J. Seeks Bidders for Solar Project at Decades-Old Landfill

City leaders in Princeton, N.J., are moving forward with previously stalled plans for a solar project on an old municipal landfill.

Princeton Planning Director Lee Solow isn’t sure how old the capped municipal landfill is or when it was opened, but says it has been closed for about 15 years. Now a brownfield site, the city had originally looked at using the former landfill site as a recreation area, Solow says. But due to some settling and continued methane release, the city can’t use the site for recreation for at least another 15 years.

To make use of the site in the meantime, the city began investigating a solar project at in 2011, but it got put on hold when solar renewable energy values stalled. Now, prices have recovered, and the city’s consultants say the project is feasible once again.

There are no specific plans for the solar project, but that the city would issue a request for proposals soon, Solow says. Bidding companies will be asked to design, construct, own and operate the solar facility while leasing the land from the city. The lease will extend 15 years, during which the city expects to make $20,000 to $30,000 per year in lease payments. Solow says he believes the solar facility will be a multimillion-dollar project for the winning bidder to construct.

“But it’s good to do,” he says, adding the site isn’t generating anything beneficial, either for the environment or the city, right now.

The city would then revisit the use of the site when the 15-year lease is up and determine at that time whether it wants to continue with the solar project, or use the land for something else.

The solar facility is expected to generate about one megawatt of power, and the wastewater treatment facility adjacent to the landfill is reportedly interested in purchasing some of the power generated by the solar panels, Solow says. The power generated by the solar panels equates to 10 to 15 percent of the power used at the wastewater plant, says Joseph Santaiti, vice president of energy consultant Gabel Associates.

The panels will be placed on a skid so as not to penetrate the landfill’s clay cap, Solow says. Santaiti, who is working with the city to plan the project, says the panels will likely consume four to five acres at the nearly nine-acre landfill.

Santaiti says the project moves the city toward its goal to foster the development of solar panels on brownfields and other vacant areas throughout the city.

“It can’t be used for anything else,” Santaiti says. “Why not turn those types of facilities into renewable or green-minded facilities?” 

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