GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Officials are no closer to developing a solar panel project at the defunct Oak Avenue landfill than the township was in January 2011, when Pepco Energy Services scrapped its plan for 18 acres of solar panels.
Pepco Energy Services abandoned the project when it learned the cost would quadruple because of the expense of connecting to the power grid. PJM Interconnectors, a company that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity, would have required Pepco to feed electricity to the grid using a location in Absecon instead of Galloway.
Mayor Don Purdy said although Pepco's plans proved to be cost prohibitive in 2011, he believes technology could allow a similar project to proceed soon.
"We spoke with two other companies about seven months ago," Purdy said. "We found they had different avenues out there by looking at different ways of transmitting the current.
"I'm not saying we wouldn't do something in the near future, but changes in technology to alleviate the cost burden is what companies seem to be waiting on," Purdy said.
When the township called for bids in 2009 for the project, a dozen companies expressed interest. Pepco was the only company to submit a proposal. By October 2010, Pepco asked the township to release it from the contract.
Since then, officials have discussed different ideas for use of the property, including an area where off-road vehicles could be used, but neighborhoods are too close for that, Purdy said.
"We thought about adding a park, but we don't need any more parks. The perfect thing would be an energy project. It would be a good way for the township to generate revenue, and we were very excited about it two years ago," Purdy said.
Pepco's project, at the time of the proposal, had the potential to bring the township $151,000 annually for 15 years, or about $2.27 million revenue during the span of the contract.
Purdy said he was disappointed when Pepco pulled out when the estimated cost of the project jumped from $600,000 to $2.5 million.
"I would love to see something happen there, but the difficulty right now is logistically bringing a project to the area. As much as we're trying to solicit developers to Galloway, it's a terrible economic time right now," Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said.
Coppola said he hopes to curtail costs with a similar project that connect to the grid in the township instead of having to do that in Absecon.
Since Pepco abandoned the project, the township has discussed other sources of renewable energy, including wind power, but no projects have been planned, Coppola said.
Coppola pointed to the public golf course, McCullough's Emerald Links, that was built on a closed landfill in Egg Harbor Township as a successful use of this kind of property.
"EHT did a decent job with McCullough's, but that took years and years to do and an incredible amount of money, and at the time it was also controversial. When you start a landfill project somewhere, you really need to think about the future," he said.
"I don't feel a desperate need to pursue development in that area right now. There are other tracts of land in the township that I would love to see generating revenue for the township," he added.
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