After a half-hour long closed, executive session, the township council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with a Hoboken-based company to turn a former Superfund site into a solar farm. But even though an agreement is signed, the incoming, Democrat-controlled council will have the final say on whether to go through with the plan.
The agreement with Standard Alternative, LLC will effectively make the township a landlord at the former French's Landfill site, off Sally Ike Road. Under the agreement, the township will float bonds to pay for the installation of solar panels, and Standard Alternative will pay the debt service. The township will borrow funds because municipal bonds are paid off at a much lower rate. The township will purchase energy from Standard Alternative at a reduced rate, saving taxpayers an estimated $9 million over the 15 years it will take to pay off the bonds, according to Council President Brian DeLuca.
After the 15 years are up, the township will take full control of the solar system, at which point it can be used to fully power both the township and BTMUA electric bills, and then some.
But the bonds could prove to be a sticking point. Few specifics were provided at Tuesday night's council meeting on how much the township would borrow, and how much revenue the lease and energy purchasing agreement would bring in.
DeLuca referenced a contract that was 103 pages long which spelled out the agreement, which he said would be available to the public Wednesday. Brick Patch was waiting word from township officials on the details of the deal. In order for the project to move forward, however, the bonds to support the installation of the solar arrays will have to be approved by council members who will be taking office in January.
"It's not going to be a deal struck in stone until the public financing is done," said Township Attorney Jean Cipriani, who added that the required process of passing a bond ordinance would extend, by law, into 2012.
Councilman Dan Toth said that installing a solar farm was one of the few options the township had for the 42 acre tract, since it is what is known as a brownfield site, which is not marketable to developers who would build homes or businesses.
"Hopefully this project will reverse the course, in that we took a bad thing and made it into a good thing," said Toth. "We're trying to use it [the site] to the most profitable, and most beneficial, potential it has to the Township of Brick."
According to DeLuca, the site will generate 6.5 megawatts of energy each year.