The contaminated site of a former gas manufacturing plant in Hackensack will soon be back in the energy game, hosting a one-megawatt solar farm.
Public Service Electric & Gas on Tuesday broke ground on the solar farm, which is on a six-acre brownfield site owned by the company on River Road. Beyond that, the company said it will seek Board of Public Utilities approval to develop an additional 233 megawatts of solar generation capacity over five years with an investment of up to $883 million.
Gov. Chris Christie, who last week signed legislation to revive the state's flagging solar industry, said the company is setting a positive example by reviving a site that otherwise had little use.
"This was a vision that we had during the campaign to take existing landfill sites and brownfields and build solar farms," he said. "And PSE&G has stepped up and helped to make that dream come true."
Christie said the project, and others like it, also are job-creators: PSE&G estimates its wider five-year solar expansion will bring 300 direct jobs.
The Hackensack project will be built with union labor by contractor J. Fletcher Creamer & Sons, which is based just down the street from the solar farm.
Tony Oliveira, who heads Laborers Local 472, said projects like these are a good sign for the economy.
"The advancement of projects like this continue to restore confidence in New Jersey's construction trade, and is proof that this state has taken a step forward," he said.
Though the project came shortly after the new solar rescue bill was signed, PSE&G was already planning to expand its solar portfolio, and would have gone forward even without the legislation, according to Ralph Izzo, chairman and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group, the parent company of PSE&G.
Izzo said hoped this project would help bridge the gap between now and when the major benefits of the solar rescue bill are seen down the road. But he said the significance of this and PSE&G's other solar projects is that they have economic benefits far beyond his company.
"The main reason for standing here today with Fletch Creamer (the CEO of Fletcher Creamer and Sons) and the unions is to demonstrate that the way we're doing this is in partnership with others," Izzo said.
So far, PSE&G's solar loan program has financed more than 700 projects since it was initiated in 2008. The company's other program, Solar 4 All, is an effort to boost grid-connected solar capacity on brownfields and landfills, warehouse roofs, parking lots and other sites. That program's original aim was to build 80 megawatts. The new expansion calls for an additional 136 megawatts.