No repair in sight for dispute over N.J. farmland, massive solar initiatives

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Clean energy supporters argue that the most densely populated state in the country can only achieve this goal if it opens up some of the remaining farmland in New Jersey to major utility projects. Such larger projects would not only help to advance the state’s solar policy goals, but also at lower costs for utility customers, so the proponents.

However, such projects typically require large swaths of land, 250 to 900 acres in size, according to Tim Daniels, co-founder of Dakota Power, a developer looking to build a utility-scale project on 800 acres of farmland in Pilesgrove. The project would make it possible to continue the sheep pasture on the site.

Income for landowners

“It’s really important to develop utility-scale solar energy,” said Bruce Burcat, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition. If such facilities were placed on farms, landowners, including those who struggle to keep working, could generate significant incomes, he said.

Smith agrees that it will be impossible to meet the government’s goal for solar energy. “There just isn’t enough space. This is a classic case of competing environmental goals, ”he said, describing it as a very difficult decision.

Others criticized the proposal, however, saying that part of New Jersey’s farmland with so-called prime or statewide significant soils within the county’s agricultural development areas should be banned from utility-scale solar development development.

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