Archive for the ‘Solar Farming’ Category

‘Environmentalists get heated over would-be solar site in Hamilton’

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Landscape Rendering For The Black Solar Farm

Isn’t that an oxymoron – “Environventalists get heated over solar farm” ?

Zoning board meeting March 13, 2012

HAMILTON –Tuesday night marked another long, tense zoning board hearing as environmentalists and witnesses testifying for the would-be developer of a massive solar site in Groveville squared off for a third time.

The site in question, a 60-acre property off Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road, would become home to a ground-mounted solar site under plans presented by Hamilton-based developers Barry Black Sr. and his son Barry Black Jr., doing business as BKB Properties.

No decision on the site, which would require a use variance from the zoning board, has been made yet.

The board carried the hearing to a fourth meeting March 28.

The project is opposed by the environmental group Save Hamilton Open Space.

Tuesday night’s testimony focused mainly on how the 10-megawatt site — and its 42,000 photovoltaic panels — would be landscaped and screened from neighbors.

But with the testimony came no shortage of bickering between John Alice, an attorney for the developers, or Michele Donato, a lawyer representing Save Hamilton Open Space.

Zoning board attorney Michael Balint even got into it, chastising the two for arguing and telling Alice the plans he was presenting seemed to change from week to week.

“This seems to be a moving target and each time you come, we seem to hear something different about what it’s going to be,” Balint said. “You guys have said a lot of things so when I look through my notes, one week it’s one thing, the next month it’s something different.”

Much of the confusion stemmed from inconsistencies in setback and landscaping details.

The plan previously included a berm around the property that would be planted with trees and shrubs, but landscaper Jim Kerr, testifying on behalf of the Blacks, said berms are more trouble than they are worth.

He advised planting staggered rows of native species like evergreens and maples, as well as fast-growing shrubs like hollies, to hide the solar site from the road and residents who live nearby.

“We want to make it look as natural as possible, plants planted flush with the grade,” he said. “You have 30 feet of berms with plants jammed in, and it looks horrible.”

Other witnesses, including a field biologist and professional planner and engineer, testified on the likelihood of the land retaining its agriculturally rich soils and how the site would fit in with Hamilton’s new solar ordinance, which attempts to restrict large-scale solar projects to industrial areas of the township.

Most of the opposition to the Black project has stemmed from its location in the rural resource conservation zone, a stretch in Hamilton’s southeast corner that remains one of the least developed parts of the sprawling suburb.

“This site’s location is not manufacturing along the river or an industrial zone in the north, but I think it’s an appropriate location,” planner and engineer Tim Kernan said.

Nearby residents and members of Save Hamilton Open Space disagreed.

“Hamilton has very limited amount of open space left,” Save Hamilton Open Space president Ed Pfeiffer said. “About 11 percent of Hamilton remains undeveloped at this point and most of it is in the rural resource conservation zone.”

A group of union carpenters and construction workers, including Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) sat in on the meeting. They have supported the project as a much-needed job creator.

Pfeiffer and others said the solar installation jobs would be only temporary, but construction worker Joseph Sary said the ailing construction market could use all the help it can get.

“We need this work,” he said. “This isn’t just putting money in our pockets, it’s feeding our family, paying our mortgage, allowing us to stay in this township.”


Proposed Solar Farm & Veteran Housing

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Tuesday evening Rager Energy joined Barry Black and BKB Properties at the Hamilton Township zoning board meeting to propose a 10 MW solar installation.  Barry Black and his family have a comprehensive plan for cultivating low-lying crops under a section of the solar panels and donating four building lots to the Thomas Jerome House, a non-profit organization created to help disabled veterans after they return from war.

Crying Ain’t Going To Grow Anything Back (Video Of Tyler Southern)


HAMILTON — The township could become home to a third major solar site if a local developer wins approval to install 32,000 panels on a 64-acre tract of land.

Developer Barry Black proposes a so-called solar farm in Hamilton’s southeast corner, pitting residents in favor of more solar against those who want one of the township’s last rural areas to remain untouched by development.

“When I bought my house, this was supposed to be the last rural vestige in Hamilton, and I truly feel it should be kept that way,” said Harold Dunn, one of dozens of residents who showed up for a zoning board hearing Tuesday night.

Others, including a few electrical and construction workers, pointed out that a new development could provide jobs and tax dollars.

“The economy the way it is now — it’s terrible out there,” said a resident who works in the construction industry. “We need these jobs.”

Located on Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road near the back entrance of the Hamilton Marketplace shopping center, the site is made up of two lots covered in fields, woods and wetlands.

Black and his company, BKB Properties LLC, envision covering those lots with thousands of crystalline, photovoltaic panels that would absorb sunlight and generate 10 megawatts of electricity to be fed back into the local power grid. To get an idea how much power 10 megawatts would provide, PSE&G’s national solar initiative called Solar 4 All aims to develop 80 solar megawatts, and that would be enough to power 13,000 average New Jersey homes.

The land BKB Properties is targeting is inside Hamilton’s rural resource conservation zone, so the company requires a use variance from the zoning board before any construction can begin.

The developer has also said he intends to subdivide the property and provide land to the Thomas Jerome House, a nonprofit organization looking to build housing for soldiers returning home with traumatic brain injuries.

But at Tuesday’s hearing, the board reviewed only the solar plan.

Michael Mueller, a planner testifying on behalf of Black, reminded zoners that renewable energy projects are considered inherently beneficial under state law.

That makes it easier for solar applications to pass local muster.

The zoning board has already approved two other solar facilities, a PSE&G project on South Broad Street and another on Yardville-Allentown Road that’s roughly the same size as Black’s proposed project.

“I think we do want to build upon what you looked at last year with the other two applications,” Mueller said. “We want to be better than those. We want to provide a better standard.”

The board came to no decision Tuesday night and the hearing was carried to a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31.

Thank you to all who came out to the Tinton Falls Groundbreaking Ceremony

Monday, November 7th, 2011

What a wonderful day.  Sandwiched between a rainy, dreary Thursday and a snow blizzard on Saturday, we sure lucked out having a sunny, slightly chilly ceremony for the groundbreaking event on Friday.

The ceremony began with renown Opera singer, Andy Fei, singing the National Anthem and concluded with backhoes being used for dirt shoveling.. apparently the shovels didn’t cut it (stay tuned for videos).  The entire ceremony was deliciously catered by Jimmy Pecci’s, A Taste of Italy, out of Tinton Falls.

Senator Jennifer Beck

Tinton Falls project manager Dave Schember, myself, Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera

Work to Begin on 100-Acre Solar Farm in Tinton Falls

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Touted as one of the largest solar fams in the Northeast, work on the 100-acre clean energy project in Tinton Falls along Shafto Road will begin in earnest on Friday with a ground breaking ceremony.

The $80 million privately-funded project can be accessed at Tormee Drive, and will boast 85,000 ground mounted panels that will generate 19.88 mega watts, according to a release from the borough.

“This large-scale solar farm will provide needed jobs and be a boost to the local economy that has been devastated by the closure of Fort Monmouth, while helping this country meet its energy demands for the 21st century,” said Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera.

The entire project is estimated to take approximately eight months, with the anticipated completion date of May 2012.

Tinton Falls Solar Farm, LLC, a subsidiary of Zongyi Solar America Co. Ltd., purchased the property from Clean Jersey Solar for $5.55 million, or $57,000 per acre, according to the CoStar Group Web site.

The borough’s zoning board approved the application in November 2010, with the site subdivided into the solar farm and a non-age restricted townhome development. One of the original proposals for the site was to develop 243 single family units and 61 affordable units with over 1,100 bedrooms. The scaled-down application had 248 two-bedroom units.

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at 99 Tormee Drive and feature Sen. Jennifer Beck, Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, Skudera and other borough and local officials. Friday’s groundbreaking will also feature representatives from Tinton Falls Solar Farm, LLC, including its CEO, Eddie Zeng.

“This project combines with capital investment, advanced technology and equipment, an experienced engineering and construction team, and strong support from the local community. I am confident that it will not only create many local jobs and stimulate the economy; it will also set the standard for future ventures in the field of solar energy in New Jersey,” said Zeng.

The energy generated from this site could power the equivalent of nearly 3,000 homes, which are about two-thirds of the total households in Tinton Falls.  It is estimated that this solar farm will offsets carbon emissions equivalent to nearly 4,000 acres of trees, according to the release.

Tinton Falls Groundbreaking Ceremony

Monday, October 24th, 2011

This upcoming Friday, October 28th, 2011, we celebrate the Groundbreaking of the Tinton Falls Solar Farm.  The Tinton Falls Solar Farm is one of the largest solar projects in New Jersey at 19.8 MW utilizing 97 acres and 85,000 panels which will produce enough clean energy to power 2,665 homes, approximately 60% of Tinton Falls. Additionally, this 19.8 MW system will sequester over 20,000 tons of carbon annually, equivalent to almost 4,000 acres of trees.

We are fortunate for the opportunity to invest in the state of New Jersey, employ the local community and improve the overall economy while producing good clean energy for us all.  Without the support of certain government officials and the diligent persistence of our entire engineering and construction team, Triad Consulting Engineers and Unity International Group, none of this would be possible.

We look forward to sharing this upcoming event to all who join us and support this initiative during an unprecedented time in the solar energy environment in New Jersey.  If you have not received an invite to the Groundbreaking Ceremony but would like to join us, please email: for availability and more information.

Solar Farm Approved!!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Rager Energy received final approvals on 12 MW solar farm in Harrison Township.  The 52,800 photovoltaic panels will produce enough clean energy to power approximately 2,000 homes annually.

HARRISON TWP. — A new solar field is being planned for an empty field off of Route 77, bringing green energy initiatives and tax revenue to the town.

The 100-acre parcel, owned by the Eachus family, was once a working farm, but is now an open area. Originally the farm had been set aside to have a Catholic high school built, but when the plans went through the township and the owners had to find a new use for it.

Multiple options had been discussed, with the construction of a solar field being chosen as the most feasible and beneficial for Harrison Township.

“The indirect benefits are it won’t be developed for housing, we don’t need any more burden on the school system,” said Mayor Lou Manzo. “And we didn’t want it to be developed as more commercial property because you’re getting more into the open space area.”

United Solar Group and Rager Energy Consulting LLC have received a long-term lease from the landowners and plan to build approximately 50,000 solar panels on it.

The project will include building phases, with the company installing a portion of the panels in each phase.

Once completed, the energy output will become a taxable entity, raising around $70,000 per year for the township.

“Obviously it’s a wave of the future, it’s environmentally forward thinking, we think it will be it’s a $70,000 ratable for us, which is huge,” Manzo said. “It’s like a win-win-win-win on all fronts.”

The solar field, near the intersection of Gangemi Lane, will not be visible from the road, and the township’s planning board is currently working with the developers to make sure that there is enough of a buffer zone between the field and its neighboring properties that it won’t be seen by those parties either.

Gloucester County Times

What do you mean I can’t stop the solar farm across the street?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

Wow.  I have been MIA for quite some time!  Between conferences, presentations, last minute meetings, the every day grind of working in a start-up co., and somewhere in between finding time to enjoy life, I seem to have neglected our friend called blog.

So where shall we begin?  Well recently my father, Clay, was invited to give a presentation to the town of Medford, along with a handful of other professionals in the solar biz, on the benefits of solar and how it works.  It seems that many adversaries of solar, who, upon learning more about the reality of these seemingly “ugly” contraptions, have recently converted to solar evangelists.   Solar is becoming increasingly popular, almost everyday you can find an article in the newspaper about another 10 MW solar farm being approved.. you may have even seen one popping up in your own backyard.

So what does this mean to you???  Out here in farm land we call south Jersey, we are used to seeing fields of crops, cow pastures, peach trees and old farm houses.. believe me, I know, I grew up here too!  But now we are hearing of a new kind of farm coming to town, a solar farm, and there seems to be no stopping them no matter how much we vent to the town board that for decades we watched pumpkins grow and deer graze in the empty field across the street.  We understand and empathize with your situation.  But at the same time we are here to help shed light on the other perspective, the benefits that this sun soaking apparatus has to offer.  Like I said, there seems to be no stopping them, so let’s find out why.

Well, first and foremost, the State has deemed solar to be “inherently beneficial”, which means, solar cannot be stopped just because we don’t want to look at it.

“Inherently beneficial use” means a use which is universally considered of value to the community because it fundamentally serves the public good and promotes the general welfare. Such a use includes, but is not limited to, a hospital, school, child care center, group home, or a wind, solar or photovoltaic energy facility or structure.”

“Wind, solar or photovoltaic energy facility or structure” means a facility or structure for the purpose of supplying electrical energy produced from wind, solar, or photovoltaic technologies, whether such facility or structure is a principal use, a part of the principal use, or an accessory use or structure.”

Aside from all the obvious reasons of going solar:   dependance on foreign oil, war as an effect of that reliance, pollution from dirty energy sources, increasing electricity rates… need I say more?  With that said, while our solar machines are quietly sunbathing, they are actually working towards a greater good in reducing the propensities of the past.

Now let’s address some of the concerns that solar raises:

Do they emit radiation, are they toxic and do they pose health issues for those living near them? No.  Solar panels do not emit radiation or any radioactive side effects.  In short, solar panels are comprised of silicon cells sandwiched between tempered glass with galvanized or stainless steel racking, none of which is toxic to the earth and all of which is recyclable at the end of the panel’s life cycle.

Are the solar panels noisey and will we hear them across the street? We had several studies done by an acoustic engineer who concluded that, number one, the panels themselves do not make noise.  Secondly, the inverters, which convert the electric from DC to AC power release a low hum, which cannot be heard 100 feet away (65 decibels at the source reducing 6 dB every 10 ft.).  Conclusion:  crickets are much louder.

Aesthetics of the solar farm –  solar farms must follow strict guidelines imposed by the town planner, which usually consists of a 100-foot front set back, 6′ fencing, lined with black vinyl (which has been determined to blend very well with natural habitats), and a hefty buffer consisting of a mixture of deciduous and needle-leaf trees, shrubs, bushes and any other landscaping the town stipulates.  The goal of the farm is to blend in with the natural environment in contrast of resembling utility equipment or a substation.

Do solar panels create glare? Solar panels are designed to absorb light (not reflect) to convert into electricity.  Most panels now contain two layers of anti-reflective coating which reduces reflection and increases sunlight absorption.  To give a comparison, solar panels have a similar reflectivity % as:  dry sand, needle-leaf trees and grass-type vegetation.

What are the effects on the environment? First, let me say that we do not put solar farms on property that requires cutting down trees!  There is plenty of open space to utilize, most of which is no longer being used by farmers who wish to sell or lease their land and retire from the highly physical lifestyle of farming (believe it or not, solar farms are actually helping people who can’t sell their land during these economic times and can no longer work the land themselves), plus, the land below the solar panels have the option of being farmed by low-lying crops, otherwise, we plant meadow grass.  Solar is not an impervious surface, meaning, solar panels do not inhibit natural recharging of the land and allow the absorption of water.  Examples of impervious surfaces can include driveways, homes, pavement or any other cover that prevents water from being absorbed into the ground, thereby preventing aquifers from being replenished and causing run-off, soil erosion, flooding and other environmental hazards.

And once built, we have a passive solar farm ladies and gentlemen. This is less obtrusive than even a regular old farm.  Solar farms do not make use of harmful chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers and there is no additional dust, mud or noise generated from tractors and farm equipment.  Let’s also take a second to consider the alternatives.  Some of these properties have residential and industrial zoning which permits housing developments and industrial uses such as manufacturing, freight, trucking, workers, traffic, signs, buildings, chemicals, pollution and other undesirables to move in.  Even though a farmer has been occupying the land for what seems like a lifetime, many are selling their land and you never know who the new owner will be.  At least with solar, you’re getting a quiet neighbor for 15, 20, 30 years or more.

What happens to the equipment when the solar panels are done being used? There are several options when deciding the method of installation.  We choose to go with either an I-beam or an earth screw, which does not require concrete pilings or any permanent fixture.  Both are comprised of either galvanized or stainless steel and again, does not contaminate the earth.  When it is time to remove the panels we simply pick up the equipment, leaving the earth virtually untouched aside from holes similar to what you would expect from fence posts and take everything to a recycling center for the material to be reused in computers, calculators, and whatever else your heart desires.

Additionally, solar farms do not increase the number of homes, traffic, children in school systems, the need for additional police, septic, etc.  On the other hand, solar farms DO increase the local tax base and jobs.  Solar supports 15-30 jobs for every megawatt produced.  Solar can also help municipalities and schools in reducing their electric bill and therefore contribute that money towards their disposable income.  Feel free to contact us for details on how to make this happen. And finally, one solar project (10 MW AC), enough to power 2,000 homes annually, will offset 16,200 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to planting 2.375 million pine trees a year.

Now I pose the question, is solar our friend or foe? And remember what they say in grade school, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  He might be “ugly” but he has a big heart.

Haewoojae. A place where one can solve one’s worries

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Sim Jae-duck founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001 to call attention to the fact that 2.6 billion people around the world lack access to basic sanitation services. His house is designed to look like a toilet.

Recycle contaminated land.  New Jersey Brownfields have a purpose.

Recently, converting brownfields or landfills into renewable energy projects has gained acceptance and attention much due to the state Assembly’s passage of a bill.  On January 17, 2010, A4341 was enacted, which authorizes matching grants of up to $5M per year under the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund to local municipalities, counties or certain redevelopment agencies for up to 75% of the cost of remediating contaminated property for renewable energy production.  This expands the current law authorizing such grants for projects involving the redevelopment of property for recreation, conservation, or affordable housing to include the redevelopment of contaminated property for renewable energy sources.

Challenges pertaining to developing landfills deal with settlement issues that persist for years even after the landfill has been closed.  Another concern relates to penetrating the earth to anchor pillars for ground mount arrays which can disrupt the caps that cover many closed landfills.  However, despite these obstacles, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that approximately 4,100 brownfield sites have potential for renewable energy development.  The RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative found that in New Jersey, there are about 243 contaminated sites that have renewable energy development opportunities.

In August 2009, a 23-acre solar farm on a former landfill was approved by the city of Hopatcong; it is estimated to generate 8-10 MW of electricity.  One idea they have discussed but has not been formalized, is to have the Hopatcong school district become the major customer for the electricity generated by the solar farm.

Contact us if you would like an evaluation of your contaminated land.


ATTN Farmers: Solar Farming Farmland Preserved

Monday, April 5th, 2010

There has been much discussion and question as to whether farmers with property in Farmland Preservation can use that land for solar farming.  The answer is Yes.

Photo credit:

Signed into law on January 16, 2010, Public Law P.L.2009, c.213 affords the right of farm protection to farmers who want to install wind, biomass or solar energy systems on their farms.  Protection under this new law limits the size of system to 2 MW (approx. 8-10 acres).


  • All farms must file a conservation plan with the soil conservation district and where applicable account for aesthetic, impervious coverage, and environmental impacts of the construction, installation, and the operation of wind, biomass, and solar systems.
  • The power or heat generated by the systems should be used to provide directly or indirectly but not exclusively, energy for the farm and ensure farm viability.
For Solar systems on a preserved farm:
  • The system can be installed on existing structures, with no overproduction limitation.
  • If ground mounting a system no more than 1% of the farm including preserved and non preserved portions, or
  • The system can be designed to meet the farms energy needs plus 10%.

Farmland Assessment:

  • Income generated from the sale energy created from these systems shall not count toward income to qualify for farmland assessment.
  • The land under and around solar panels to the greatest extent practical is used for farming of shade crops, or other plants, or pasture for grazing.
  • That the land where the systems are to be installed qualified for Farmland assessment the previous tax year.
  • Farms in the pinelands wishing to install these systems can do so if they are consistent with the comprehensive management plan for the pinelands.

If you own farmland in New Jersey and are interested in using part or all of it for a solar farm, feel free to contact us.  We have several ways to structure the venture depending on your needs.  For example, if you just want to sell or lease your land with no money out of pocket to you, we are happy to do a preliminary evaluation to see if a solar farm is viable.  Another possibility is to join forces and we will solar farm together.

contact us

Click here to read Public Law P.L.2009, c.213.

Pig Farmer Turns Solar Farmer

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Switching from pigs to power saved Heiner Gärtner’s family enterprise, which was teetering on the edge of economic ruin. Mr. Gärtner, 34, took over his father’s pig farm, turned it into a solar farm and now makes more than $600,000 a year from the sale of this electricity.  He drives a Mercedes.