West Windsor neighbors of the proposed solar power field on the grounds of Mercer County Community College have just gained two new allies in their ongoing struggle to delay the project: West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and Council President Kamal Khanna.
In a letter to Governor Chris Christie, Patricia Donahue, president of the community college, and Phillip S. Miller, executive director of the Mercer County Improvement Authority, the agency in charge of the project, the West Windsor officials urged the county to “suspend construction of the 45-acre solar project until new hearings are held that involve all parties, including nearby West Windsor residents, as to recent changes and factual discrepancies to the project.”
The letter was dated July 16 but not sent to the News’ attention until July 19, shortly before the deadline for this issue. Reactions from the college and the MCIA, when available, will be added to the online version of this story at www.wwpinfo.com.
The solar project has been subject of much discussion and objections by neighbors, particularly those located on South Post Road adjacent to the proposed site. Political critics of the Hsueh and Khanna have accused them of accepting the project largely because it has been initiated by fellow Democrats, including County Executive Brian M. Hughes, also on the list of recipients of the letter.
In the letter, Hsueh and Khanna cited recent changes in the project, including “a redesign required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and possible adverse effects on the financing of the project — and its overall financial viability — due to the dramatic decline in Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) prices. The Mayor and Council of West Windsor believe that new hearings should take place as to the financial viability of the project which could adversely impact all of the residents of Mercer County, as the County has guaranteed the bonds on this questionable project. Additionally, the Mayor and Council are very concerned about the potential negative impact on the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of West Windsor due to drainage and run-off issues related to the project.”
The letter added that “there appear to be factual discrepancies from the statements of the MCCC, MCIA, and SunLight officials [the contractor for the solar panels] regarding this project. It was stated that the project would be at least a football field away from any residents’ homes; however, it now appears that the latest plans show solar panels as close as 50 feet from residents’ properties.”
The letter continues: “SunLight General believes that SREC prices will be high enough to pay their debts. However, recent projections by SREC Trade as well as Bloomberg New Energy Finance under current legislation, as well as proposed legislation, show a shortfall during at least 10 to 15 years of the project’s lifespan. The question now arises as to what SREC price forecasts are viable. Additionally, SunLight General has yet to provide information as to any other ground mounted systems it has constructed in the past, so that an evaluation can be made as to those projects’ impacts upon nearby properties.
“The Mayor and Council continue to be concerned about the buffering of the project. The original project called for berming that would hide the project from both the residents and those who drove along Old Trenton Road. However, the berms have now been eliminated from the project and it is difficult to understand how the project would be hidden from sight through landscaping. This needs to be addressed to allay the fears of the nearby community.”
“The Mayor and Council of West Windsor seek immediate action to prevent this project from moving forward with so many unanswered questions . . . The project should go back before Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Mercer County Planning Board for another review, given the financial concerns.”