A shadow has fallen over a proposed solar energy project in the township, while two other plans are near to seeing the light of day.
A Planning Board hearing on a proposal to construct a solar array on the side of Sourland Mountain was postponed from Thursday night until July 12 at the request of the applicant.
But the installation of solar panels on the roof of the municipal complex and at the Department of Public Works facility on East Mountain Road is nearing completion.
“We’re almost there,” Mayor Carl Suraci said.
The hearing on the plan to construct a 9,996-panel solar array on the mountain in Hillsborough off Dutchtown-Zion Road was postponed by the applicants, Gibraltar Quarry and KDC Solar, of Bedminster.
About two dozen residents last month attended a Planning Board hearing on the .
About 500 acres of the quarry, formerly owned by 3M, are in Hillsborough and 200 acres are in Montgomery. Since 2009, Gibraltar Rock has conveyed 734 acres at the quarry to Somerset County as part of the Sourland Mountain Preserve. That is more than half of the 1,440 acres Gibraltar acquired from The 3M Co. in 2009.
Much of the first hearing centered on the wastewater run-off from the 20-acre facility and whether there was an alternate location for it on the quarry property.
Mark Lukasik, the engineer for the project, said the panels, to be installed by KDC Solar, will generate 2.3 megawatts of power for the operation at the quarry. The solar panels will be located on 7.5 acres of the 20-acre site; Lukasik said the additional room is necessary so the 100-foot trees in the area would have enough room to topple without hitting the panels. The panels, on concrete pads, will be 5 to 8 feet off the ground, he said.
Lukasik said solar arrays should have a southern exposure to maximize their effectiveness and be free of shadows. He said three locations were considered before deciding on a site with a 10 percent slope near an existing tailings pile.
The engineer said the solar array, because of the slope and the surrounding trees, would not be visible from Belle Mead-Blawenberg Road. He said the panels would not be reflecting sunlight because “if they’re reflecting light, they’re not operating.”
But Planning Board Engineer Bill Buzby said his “main concern” about the plan was whether the proposed drainage system, which includes a retention basin, has “sufficient capacity” to handle the run-off. Buzby said both the Somerset County Planning Board and the Somerset-Union Soil Conservation District had similar concerns.
The panels at the municipal complex and DPW facility are undergoing their final tests, the mayor said at Tuesday’s township committee meeting.
A monitor has been installed in the lobby of the that will show how much power the panels are generating, Suraci said.
The solar panel project was prompted by the need to offset the cost of the replacement of the building’s original roof and HVAC system. Construction on the municipal building was completed in 1991.