A New Jersey-based development company won approval Monday to build 30 acres of solar panels on top of an old landfill in southern Ocean County, just south of Route 72.
The developer had faced opposition from local environmental groups because the land at the Stafford Business Park site had been set aside as a public open space under the state’s Green Acres program.
But Larry Ragonese from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said the plan has been approved because it’s a better green use of the land than letting the former landfill sit empty.
“It’s not 50 or 100 acres of pristine forest or natural habitat.” Ragonese said. “It’s a former landfill, and so the decision was to, in effect, develop this 48 acres but develop it for green purposes.”
Walters Group, the development company, has already created housing and retail properties on the site. Joseph DelDuca, a company spokesman, said the proximity of the solar panels to existing stores and homes makes it a good use of what would otherwise be vacant land. Being able to use the energy at nearby properties makes it more efficient than routing it back through the power grid.
“We have sort of a perfect storm of circumstances,” DelDuca said. “We have a closed landfill, we have an area immediately adjacent that can use the power without having to go back into the grid, so we have all the qualities that the state and local governments are looking for.”
Work on the project is expected to start in the next several months; DelDuca said it will take about 18 months to complete.