While Plainsboro officials continue to discuss technical details behind the agreement the township has with the New Jersey Audubon Society, the solar panel project at the Plainsboro Preserve has been put on hold.
Last month, the Mast Plan Subcommittee of the township’s Planning Board reviewed whether a proposal by the New Jersey Audubon Society to construct a solar array to power the environmental center in the 1,000-acre Plainsboro Preserve was feasible and fits with the township’s master plan.
The subcommittee determined that the solar panels would "be located in a manner that was not detrimental," said Mayor Peter Cantu at the Township Committee meeting on July 27.
However, "there are some issues that need to be resolved," and the township is holding off on the project for now, he added.
Cantu said that the issue is with the duration of the agreement the Audubon is looking at extending with solar panel vendors for the site. Audubon officials told Plainsboro officials that they are considering a 20-year agreement with the vendors. However, the township’s agreement with the Audubon is only valid for nine more years. The township owns some of the parcels within the Plainsboro Preserve (some parcels are owned by the county).
The Audubon has requested a renewal of the agreement with Plainsboro,
and while there is no problem, Cantu said township officials want the opportunity to review the terms of the agreement before agreeing to do
Cantu said Plainsboro officials will continue to hash out the technical issues and come back to the project in the future.
The project, which is still in the planning stages, would include the construction of a series of solar arrays that would help power the building. It would contain four rows of solar arrays with the ability to generate 90 kilowatts of energy.
The project is expected to offset the energy costs of the environmental center right there on site, and officials hope to save about $10,000 a year in energy costs.
Cantu noted that the Audubon expects to use the savings for more recreational activities at the Plainsboro Preserve.
The array structure would sit about one or two feet off the ground, with a tilt toward the sun. At the highest point, the panels will be about nine or ten feet tall and about 190 feet long.
The ultimate decision to move forward with the project will have to be made by the Plainsboro Township Committee. The Plainsboro Preserve is made up of parcels of land that are owned by the county as well as some that are owned by the township. The proposed array is located is on township-owned property.
The solar array would cover about .4 acres. If approved, the solar project would also serve as an educational component for the New Jersey Audubon.