Pinelands solar, wind bill up for vote

A bill that would allow for solar or wind facilities on landfills in the Pinelands that was conditionally vetoed earlier this month will be up for another vote on Monday in the Senate.

The legislation, S2126, whose primary sponsors include Sen. Jim Whelan, (D-2), Atlantic City, would require the Pinelands Commission to draw up regulations for developing solar or photovoltaic energy facilities on landfills within the Pinelands.

Gov. Chris Christie, in issuing his veto, expressed concerns after hearing from both the commission and primary sponsors about changes that were needed, including limiting projects to locations that are already considered “disturbed,” locations that already had been put to use as landfills.

“Nobody wants to see solar panels rise on forests,” said Pinelands Commission spokesman Paul Leakan. “Nobody wants to see trees come down. We want to see that these are limited to areas that are already disturbed and cleared.”

Previously, Whelan had estimated that there are approximately 80 unused landfills within the Pinelands preservation area.  And Leakan pointed out that many of them are uncapped, which is expensive to do, and so one of the upsides of the bill is that alternative-energy sites may generate funds that can be used to cap the landfills.

According to the Pinelands Preservation Commission, the state-protected areas affected by this legislation total about 927,000 acres over seven counties.

In addition to capping old sites, Leakan explained that the bill and the commission regulations will help reduce the use of fossil fuels in the environmentally sensitive region.

The state Pinelands region includes about 1,449 square miles, or nearly one-fifth of the total area of New Jersey.

Pinelands solar, wind bill up for vote