Linden signs solar farm contract for landfill

Linden’s landfill along the Rahway River, which has been a cash drain for years, hopefully will become a cash generator under a 20-year contract signed with Hathaway Solar, a subsidiary of CS Energy in Linden.

LINDEN — An Edison-based company has been awarded a 20-year lease to install a solar farm atop the city’s long-closed, 55-acre landfill that is expected to generate a surplus for the municipality.

The contract, approved at the City Council’s Aug. 20 meeting, gives Hathaway Solar, a subsidiary of CS Energy, which has offices in Edison and Worcester, Mass., the rights to the landfill located off Lower Road along the Rahway River and adjacent to the Hawk Rise Sanctuary.

“The solar farm will produce revenue of $4.8 million over a 20-year period,” Alex Lospinoso, the executive director of the Linden Economic Development Corporation, said in a phone interview with LocalSource on Sept. 20. “With the lease agreement, the company has agreed to a minimum of a $4.8 million.”

The landfill, situated amid a field of petroleum tanks, currently costs Linden about $200,000 per year or more; the lease is expected to generate an average of $240,000 annually, so the city should net approximately $40,000.

“Essentially, the city has not been making money on this,” Councilman John Francis Roman said in a Sept. 20 phone interview. “It’s been costing us money to maintain the landfill, and now we have money coming in from the landfill.”

The landfill was costly to maintain, as the ground continued to settle, causing caving and impacting stormwater management systems. City workers constructed berms for stormwater division downchutes and removed tall grass, but a contractor had to repair more severe damage to the downchutes and remove more tall grass and sediment from the stormwater channels.

“In the last 15 years or so, this landfill has cost the City of Linden millions of dollars,” Armstead said at the Aug. 20 meeting. “We finally have a contract and this is finally going to happen.”

The landfill stopped taking refuse in 2000 and officially closed in 2007; it comprises less than one-tenth of a square mile, of which about 20 acres — less than half of the total property — that faces south and southeast is to be covered with solar panels.

The city made minor repairs to the landfill in 2014 and spent $34,000 to hire a contractor.
The project is allowed under the New Jersey State Community Solar Energy Pilot Program, enacted last year by the state Legislature, which permits municipalities and homeowners to use remote areas such as landfills to install solar farms and capitalize on power generated by them.

“The project will transform the former city landfill into a clean energy solution, providing approximately 7,000 megawatts, enough to offset the production of 5,012 metric tons of CO2,” according to a press release from the city.

“The solar facility will provide 1,000 local residents with clean electricity at reduced rates,” the city’s release said.

Residents will be able to opt into a solar energy option under the pilot program.

CS Energy has contracts operating solar farms from New England to Utah on otherwise unusable property, such as landfills and abandoned mines, including one in Warren County and another in Massachusetts that generates 44 megawatts across 15 sites.

“Installing projects on closed landfills is a very specialized type of project, requiring a unique combination of first-hand experience and know-how,” John Ervin, projects manager for CS Energy said in a release “In partnering with CS energy, the leading landfill solar contractor in the United States, Hathaway Solar is perfectly suited to safely develop and build this project.”