By Nicole Mulvaney, The Trenton Times
PRINCETON - The town is seeing renewed interest in a solar project proposed for the Princeton-owned landfill on River Road that initially stalled about three years ago.
Officials in the former borough and township at the end of 2011 began establishing proposals for a power purchasing agreement that called for the town leasing a portion of the landfill to a solar developer, who would finance, construct, own and operate the solar facility, Princeton Planning Director Lee Solow said.
The original project stalled and was put on hold in 2012 because of solar renewable energy values, Solow said. Joseph Santaiti, vice president of energy consultant Gabel Associates, told Mayor Liz Lempert and council Monday night the project is now economically feasible, with installation costs "exceptionally low."
"It's something we felt comfortable with," Santaiti said. "We have to feel pretty comfortable in the market in order for us to reengage."
Landfill sites "cannot be used for any other purposes," and solar projects "give them a function above and beyond," he said.
Santaiti's team will issue requests for proposals from potential developers, he said. Under the proposed plan, the Stony Brook Regional Sewage Authority would enter into a separate agreement to purchase the power.
Gabel Associates, which was also involved in other landfill gas-to-energy projects in Burlington, Salem, Cape May, Atlantic, Ocean and Middlesex counties, would be supported on this proposal by the Cornerstone Environmental Group, a subcontractor that was part of the original project team.
A ground-mounted solar system would be located on a closed portion of the landfill. The Stony Brook agency would purchase the solar energy, and Princeton would benefit from the land lease payments for hosting the facility, Solow said.
A few trees around the area could be cut down to allow in more sunlight and increase returns for Princeton, Santaiti said.
The town would also benefit from tax incentives through private sector ownership of the site, he said.
Council expressed interest in moving forward with the proposal Monday night.
"It's been a long road to get us to this point," Council President Bernie Miller said. "I really appreciate the fact that you stuck with us."
Municipal staff will prepare resolutions and other documents required to enter into a professional service agreement with Gabel Associates and the Decotiis Law Firm, with expertise in environmental law, renewable energy and land use matters.
"It sounds like we're interested, and we look forward to the next discussion," Lempert said.