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No Call Yet On RiverWinds Solar Canopy System

A final call on whether to allow developer Ray Angelini, Inc. to build and maintain a solar farm at RiverWinds won't come until at least next month.

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.

Ernest Kraus February 11, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Since electricity is a commodity, and since there are other providers of electricity besides PSE&G, has anyone looked at the alternate suppliers? The same goes for telephone, natural gas service and cable TV. What is the Comast cable bill per year at Riverwinds. There are two satelite providers as well as Verizin Fios. While PSE&G and Verizon own the wires and the final mile, others deliver the service at a lower rate. This is not new; it's been going on since deregulation. It seems obvious that previous administrations did not look at this. Ernest Kraus
Justine February 11, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I agree with Mr. Kraus. If the Concast bill is outrageously high, cancel it and get a big hd antenna to pull in the major networks for free. Most people listen to their iPods anyway. I've seen solar panel garages in Trenton & they are ugly & will ruin the appearance of RW. Why hasn't anyone looked into wind energy systems like they have on top of the Adventure Aquarium? Seems to me that wind would be a better choice in an area where the wind never stops blowing. I think putting solar panels over the parking area is a mistake. I can see kids climbing on the panels, breaking them & getting injured. How will we monitor the panels 24/7? I'm not opposed to solar panels, I just think putting them over the parking lot isn't the best solution. With all the undeveloped land around RW, why not put them on the ground and fence them off, like the did on Jessup Road?
Terry Holovachuk February 12, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I did not like the look of the renderings. I don't know why, but I feel unsafe, walking alone in enclosures such as these, particularly at night. I understand the need for alternative energy sources for many reasons. I think these two gentlemen's comments have merit and these options should be explored. A packaged plan, including a contrast and comparison of all of these suggestions, could then be presented to the public for their opinion prior to a final vote.

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