A decision on the proposed solar canopy system at has been shelved at least until March, after developer Ray Angelini, Inc. (RAI) delivered more detailed plans only hours before the West Deptford township committee was slated to discuss the project Thursday night.
Sean Angelini, the solar division manager for the company, said communication broke down when former township engineers T&M Associates gave way to the Alaimo Group in January, leading to the delay.
“T&M Associates wouldn’t even return our phone calls,” he said. “There was a disconnect there.”
The project actually has conditional approval dating back to December, but those detailed plans are the hinge point. Township administrator Eric Campo said a deadline was set for mid-January for those plans, but RAI got an extension beyond that original deadline.
Initially, the committee was hesitant to discuss the project, given the plans had only arrived in Campo’s office late in the afternoon.
“I feel completely unprepared to discuss anything intelligently about this,” committeeman Sam Cianfarini said, referencing a need to comb through the plans before talking specifics. “Obviously, we need time to do that.”
Angelini pushed for the committee to put out a series of renderings, part of the package the company dropped off earlier in the day, regardless of any discussion by the committee.
“Obviously, you didn’t get a chance to review that, we understand that,” he said. “The community here is expecting to see what it looks like.”
Angelini suggested the renderings be put up either in the municipal building, the library or RiverWinds as a way of informing the public, something committee members said they were open to.
Beyond the lateness of the plans, committeewoman Denice DiCarlo questioned whether a 15-year contract was warranted.
“It seems a little risky,” she said.
She also questioned whether RAI’s extrapolated energy prices could really be considered accurate over the long term, given the tendency for the energy market, much like any commodity, to have fluctuating prices.
“I don’t know that the savings really exist,” DiCarlo said. “If utility costs go down, we’re not saving anything.”
The project would entail RAI building the solar canopy system and maintaining it over the 15-year life of the deal, all at no cost to the township, with West Deptford then buying back all the power produced by the 2-megawatt system.
The township would actually be buying from a third party, Beltsville, MD-based SunEdison, which would own the solar system.
The savings to West Deptford, as RAI representatives have said, would come from the contract electricity rates, which would be, on average, about 40 percent lower than what the township would otherwise pay to PSE&G for the 2.5-million kilowatt-hours annually the solar system would produce.
A spreadsheet put together by RAI shows a savings of $3,226,200 over what the township would pay PSE&G over a similar term, figuring on a four-percent annual increase in PSE&G’s electric rates over the life of the agreement.
Mayor Ray Chintall said the township committee could potentially consider RAI’s detailed plans and come to a decision on the project as early as the next committee meeting on March 1. Even with township committee approval, the project would need to pass muster before the planning board before construction could start.