Don’t allow solar to cover prime NJ farmland
Expanding New Jersey’s use of solar power and other clean energy sources and decreasing reliance on dirty fossil fuel is essential.
What isn’t essential is asking the nation’s most densely populated state — where precious open space and farmlands are under constant development pressure — to place huge arrays of solar panels on our best farms and forests.
Yet state Senate Bill S2605 would allow Dakota Power’s proposal for a massive solar facility on more than 800 acres of prime-soil Salem County farmland marked for preservation.
The company claims large-scale solar projects on prime farmland are necessary for New Jersey to meet its clean energy goals, but ignores the fact that New Jersey has plenty of parking lots, landfills, brownfields and enormous warehouse rooftops that are ideal locations for solar panels. There also is marginal open land suitable for solar development, including farmland with lower-quality soils.
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation, where I am campaign director, proposes solar-siting policy that would: • Exclude our most productive soils within designated Agricultural Development Areas prioritized for farmland preservation to sustain the long-term viability of agriculture. • Prohibit cutting down forests, which store the equivalent of 8% of New Jersey’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and provide clean air and water. • Prioritize rooftops, parking lots, brownfields, landfills and marginal lands.
The bill should also require solar development to stay within a reasonable clean energy budget, and protect New Jersey’s current approach to meeting renewable goals through a smart mix of in-state and regional solar projects.
Addressing climate change demands a regional approach that benefits from substantially lower-cost solar and wind development within the 13-state electric grid that includes New Jersey. Investing in lower-cost regional projects will result in 10 to 15 times less greenhouse gas emissions for each dollar spent, saving consumers money and reducing pressure on scarce lands.
New Jersey must remain on the path to preserving farms and open spaces and transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources like solar. We don’t need to give up one for the other.
Far Hills, Somerset County
O.C. must be sustainable
The likelihood that Ocean City would be able to stop the offshore wind farm is small and the smart approach would be for Cape May County to market this renewable energy source to its full potential. By being a partner with Ørsted, there will be more benefits to Ocean City, Upper Township and Cape May County in general.
Some on City Council still cling to the idea that these windmills will be eyesores. I reject that and point to the smokestack at Beesleys Point as an eyesore. And climate related disasters are true eyesores.
An offshore wind farm may not be perfect, but we will need a full arsenal of renewable energy tools to divest from fossil fuels. And we have a reliable supply of wind and a relatively shallow seabed.
Research from reputable sources, such as Sierra Club and 350.org, shows that many birds typically migrate closer to the shore than most wind farms and higher than even the tallest turbines. The fish populations may actually increase thanks to the creation of reef-like conditions around the foundations of the turbines. If you care for the right whale, please stop using single use plastics, because plastic pollution is one of their biggest threats, along with fishing bycatch and ships.
Let’s face it, if the ocean temperatures continue to rise, the birds and fish will have much greater threats than windmills. Ocean City must make a commitment to a sustainable future. We must do this for the future of our children, our coastal community and our part in the ecosystem. Making these changes is not based on saving money. What we are saving is the climate and our ability to thrive on this planet.