Solar farm should prove to be a boon for Linden

Linden officials with energy consultants at the Linden solar farm ribbon-cutting on Thursday, March 3. From left are Jerry Bishop, Linden deputy director and supervisor of Building Services; Fernando Messeder, Solomon Community Solar; Councilman Barry E. Javick; Amy Harris, Solomon Community Solar; Mayor Derek Armstead; Councilman Ralph Strano; Councilwoman Lisa Ann Ormon; John Ervin, director of Development, CS Energy; and Director of Economic Development for Linden Alex Lospinoso.

LINDEN, NJ — The city of Linden has converted a landfill into a gold mine with the transformation of 55 acres of an urban dumping ground located off Lower Road into the Hawk Rise Community Solar Project.

According to Rebecca Tattoli, the confidential assistant to Mayor Derek Armstead, the landfill had been closed for almost 20 years, per New Jersey Department of Environment Protection orders, since it was filled to capacity.

“We were maintaining the property, even though it was closed,” she said on Monday, March 7, in a conference telephone call with Union County LocalSource. “It was a big maintenance task.”

For the conference call, Alex Lospinoso, the director of economic development for Linden, had joined Tattoli.

According to Tattoli, annual maintenance of the site was $200,000. Five city employees were always at the landfill, five days a week, working out of a trailer, driving around, checking up on things and making sure there were no landslides or other problems. Lospinoso added that testing wells and methane vents had to be maintained, too. This work was done by a contractor, Consulting and Municipal Engineers Associates, of Parlin.

But now the landfill has been leased, for $257,000 annually, to Navisun, a solar power producer located in Hingham, Mass. The company has been given a 20-year lease to the site, and it has installed 11,700 solar panels, according to Lospinoso. The electricity-producing panels will also potentially provide low-income Linden homeowners with a savings on their electricity bills. At least half of the applicants for the savings must be deemed low-income.

Tattoli said savings can be between 15 and 20 percent, but pointed out that a homeowner’s electricity bill is really two bills in one. The first bill is for the cost of delivery of the electricity to a home. In Linden, this delivery is provided by Public Service Electric and Gas. The second cost is for the actual electricity. This is provided by a consortium of electric power suppliers. But for more than a year, through the state’s Community Solar Energy Pilot Program, Linden residents have had the option to purchase their electricity from Navisun. Created by the New Jersey state Assembly, the pilot program became effective in 2019. It permits utility customers to purchase energy from out-of-state suppliers.

“But only a limited number of households can opt in to this program,” Tattoli said.

That limited number, she said, was 1,000. Lospinoso added that, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, that number included all the possible households of the municipalities contiguous to Linden, in whose borders the solar farm is situated. But Lospinoso said the 1,000-household threshold has already been reached. Still, Tattoli recognized that the solar farm will provide a crucial benefit for years.

“It will reduce our carbon footprint,” she said.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Tattoli