By Desiree Taylor
Clearing trees to make way for solar panels? It may sound ironic but that’s what happened recently in Moonachie at a private lot owned by LPS Industries. Company officials declined to comment, but mayor Dennis Vaccaro says the company has received most of the approvals necessary to proceed with its plan to install 3,100 solar panels on its property. And while he understands the benefits of solar power, the mayor says the wooded lot helped to curb flooding and provided an important buffer for residents living near the LPS package manufacturing facility.
Another solar project by a different company is meeting some opposition. Garden Solar plans to install 7,500 solar panels on a section of a nursery and Christmas tree farm in Flemington. Garden Solar co-founder Tim Ferguson says the two megawatts generated from the site will add capacity to the grid which benefits all electric consumers. But residents living near the site are concerned the solar farm will hurt property values, produce a humming sound and cause glare. But Lyle Rawlings, vice president of the New Jersey Division of the Mid-Atlantic Energy Industries Association, says glare issues are rare and there’s no evidence solar farms adversely impact property values.
Regarding the Moonachie solar project at LPS Industries, Rawlings says it’s unfortunate trees had to be removed. But he adds that this isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last time this kind of dilemma surfaces because there are so many solar projects around the state. One possible solution he says is to encourage more solar installations at less controversial sites such as brown fields, landfills and rooftops.
New Jersey is a leader in the solar industry, second only to California for its solar capacity and total number of installations, estimated at more than 12,000.