A proposed $78 million solar park project in Nesquehoning got the green light from county officials.
During the monthly meeting of the Carbon County Planning Commission on Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to recommend plan approval for the development.
This means, according to project manager David G. Lear of Lehigh Engineering Associates, who was present at the meeting, that as long as all permits are approved, groundbreaking for the 134-acre park, located at the Green Acres Industrial Park, could take place by the middle of December.
"We're hoping to have this up and running by July," he said, adding that he has worked with Green Energy Capital Partners of Conshohocken on the project for two years.
The proposed solar park will be the second largest solar park in the United States. The largest solar park is located at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
The 56,000 solar units, which consist of three-foot by five-foot panels, will generate 11.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,450 homes.
Lear said there will be no gases, odors, chemicals or by-products given off by the panels so the park will be environmentally friendly.
The park will also include wild grasses and other low vegetation under the panels to help promote good drainage of water back into the soil. Small swales will be installed to help collect storm-water.
Lear explained that each panel will be U-bolted to a pipe that has been installed in the ground. The U-bolt will then allow the panel to shift from east to west to follow the sun as it moves through the sky.
Judy Borger, director of the Carbon County Office of Planning and Development, asked Lear if the harsh winters would affect the panels.
He explained that during the planning stages, the group looked at a solar park located in Colorado, which has winters similar to or worse than Pennsylvania winters, and that park is operating without a problem.
The company is now waiting for approval for a storm-water permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which would allow storm-water from the construction to be discharged into Broad Run and Nesquehoning Creek, both cold water fisheries.
Earlier this year, the project was given two grants from the state that totaled $6 million; $5.5 million from the Department of Community and Economic Development's Commonwealth Financing Authority, and $500,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection.