Fine Print: S-2126

Measure allows solar systems and wind projects to be built on wasteland in the Pinelands and elsewhere

Sponsor: Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic)

Summary: This bill is the latest legislative effort to spur the development of alternative energy technologies in New Jersey, primarily solar and wind projects. It was passed easily by both houses of the legislature to allow such projects to be developed on old garbage dumps and quarries, some of which are located in the Pinelands.

Why it matters: The state has very aggressive goals to promote the development of solar energy in New Jersey. If it retains current legislative goals, the state wants to develop enough solar energy systems to roughly be equivalent of five nuclear power plants by 2026. The bill also reflects a platform of Gov. Chris Christie’s in his successful gubernatorial run, which was to put solar systems on the hundreds of abandoned landfills in the state.

Why people are unhappy: The Governor’s conditional veto of the measure eliminates language that would have prevented solar systems from being deployed on areas that have been restored, reforested, threatened or contained endangered species. Critics say it also allows for solar arrays and equipment to be placed on any quarry, not just closed quarries, as was the intent of original bill. The conditional veto also allows power lines to go through environmentally sensitive areas.

Why it is important to the Pinelands: Whelan notes there are more than 80 abandoned garbage dumps in the Pinelands, many of which have not been properly closed. By putting solar systems and other alternative energy technologies on the landfills, it offers a revenue source to properly close the dumps and protect the huge resources of groundwater underlying the region.

What is likely to happen next: Given the 36-0 approval of the conditional veto in the Senate, it is likely the Assembly will follow suit. The legislature has clearly embraced solar energy as a way to reduce New Jersey’s reliance on fossil fuels, a sign that it will follow the action by the 40-member Senate.