State’s Largest Utility Builds its Biggest Solar Farm on Garbage Dump

Tom Johnson | November 3, 2014 | Energy & Environment
PSE&G project to convert 35 acres at Kinsley landfill into grid-supply solar farm providing 12 megawatts of clean electricity

PSE&G is building its largest grid-supply solar array at the site of the Kinsley landfill.
The state’s goal of putting bigger solar projects on abandoned landfills and vacant brownfields instead of open space and farmland appears to be slowly taking hold.

Just this past week, Public Service Electric & Gas started construction at Kinsley landfill, its largest solar project to date in New Jersey, an 11.18-megawat facility in Deptford Township in South Jersey.

This is not the first time that the state’s largest utility has opted to build grid-supply solar arrays on old garbage dumps, creating systems that provide more than 24 megawatts of clean electricity to the power grid.

In addition, the Newark utility has installed more than seven megawatts of solar systems on brownfields, all of which had been former coal-gasification plants dating back to the early 20th century.

The state is hoping to install at least 42 megawatts of solar systems on former landfills and brownfields. PSE&G is currently negotiating to put together a deal for another 13-megawatt solar project on a former garbage dump, according to Andrew Powers, project manager for PSE&G’s Solar 4 All program.

The utility also is looking at putting solar arrays on other closed garbage dumps, particularly those have been inactive for at least 15 to 20 years, Powers said.

“Two clear goals of New Jersey’s energy policy are to support solar development in the state and maintain scarce open space,’’ said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and chief operating officer. “We are building enough grid-connected solar generation to power thousands of homes while reclaiming landfill space that has limited development opportunities.’’

The solar farm at Kinsley will convert 35 acres of the 140-acre landfill into a project generating enough electricity to power about 2,000 average-size homes. The landfill, closed in 1987, was ranked as the most suitable former dump in a study of more than 700 closed New Jersey landfills, according to a study done for PSE&G by a consultant hired by the utility.

“Building solar farms on New Jersey landfills is a great way to invest in our state,’’ said Senate President Steven Sweeney (D-Middlesex). “It’s good for the environment, for public health and the economy. These projects will create jobs in clean energy, which is a growing sector, and reduce carbon emissions, which protects the environment and the public’s health.’’

Beyond Kinsley Landfill, PSE&G also is building a solar farm on a former landfill in Bordentown and another project is in service in Kearny in the Hackensack Meadowlands.

Solar 4 All is a 125-megawatt program that utilizes rooftops, parking lots, solar farms, utility poles and landfills/brownfields for large-scale, grid-connected clean energy projects. Since 2009, PSE&G has invested more than $480 million in its Solar 4 All program, by far the most aggressive program by any other utility in the state.