According to The Huffington Post, even New Jersey real estate developers used to risky investments weren’t interested in a former toxic waste dump located next to a prison.
But this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie along with other state officials were on hand for the groundbreaking of a new solar farm that will cover 6 acres owned by Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G). A former gas manufacturing plant (or “toxic waste dump located next to a prison”), the Hackensack Solar Farm is expected to generate enough electricity to support over 200 homes in the area.
This is part of an overall effort to turn so-called “brownfield sites” (landfills, factories and other former industrial areas) into solar farms. It is hoped that this type of small scale renewable energy development will not only clean-up the landscape but also bring construction, installation and maintenance jobs to the state to alleviate high unemployment in New Jersey.
PSE&G spokesman Paul Rosengren said that the Hackensack Solar Farm is the perfect use for the site, adding that he was amazed at how quickly the solar installation came together once the correct permits were issued.
New Jersey’s solar market has ridden a roller coaster over the last few years, culminating most recently in a sharp drop in Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). SRECs fell 80 percent in 2012 because of a flood of solar capacity that overwhelmed the marketplace. Critics of Gov. Christie also say that his decision to cut New Jersey out of a northeast cap-and-trade program stunted demand.
Last last month, the governor signed a new bill aimed to ramp up the New Jersey solar industry and secure more than 10,000 solar jobs in the region. Part of that bill specifically targeted brownfield sites for exactly the type of development the Hackensack Solar Farm is undergoing. The goal is to expedite the permitting process for future developments, making less headaches for solar developers and bringing projects–and jobs–to the area faster.
It looks like the example set in New Jersey is already catching on elsewhere in the country: Chicago, New York and Philadelphia are also reportedly looking into developing brownfields into solar farms or other renewable energy projects.