Carbon County officials learned recently what a projected solar park will mean for the area.
During an on-site meeting Wednesday between the Carbon County Redevelopment Authority, county commissioners, Kovatch officials, and representatives of Green Energy Capital Partners, members had the opportunity to see where the solar park will be created in Nesquehoning; as well as what will be done to maintain the integrity of the land.
John F. Curtis III, founder and CEO of Green Energy Capital Partners of Conshohocken, described engineering plans for the 100-plus-acre park. The proposed date to begin work is Nov. 1 and the company expects to complete construction by July 2011.
Curtis explained the company has been moving forward with securing all necessary permits and has received no objections from officials.
He noted that Green Energy Capital Partners is working to make this project as green as possible; and hopes to help the American economy by purchasing the majority of the products needed from American-based companies.
"Everything we have done with this project has been green," Curtis said, noting that all trees and brush that will be removed for the project will be recycled into mulch and wood pellets.
He added that they also plan to plant as many trees as necessary to create a buffer between the park and residential and commercial areas near the park.
"We're going to do everything we can to make this project palatable," said Curtis.
The $120 million dollar project calls for two phases. Phase I is the installation of 56,000 solar panels, which will stand four-feet high. The panels will generate enough electricity to power 1,450 homes. Phase II, which was approved by the Nesquehoning Zoning Hearing Board in March, calls for an additional 50,000 panels on land adjacent to the first phase of the project. Once both phases are complete, the park would generate enough electricity to power 3,000 homes.
According to a previous article published in the TIMES NEWS, there would 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 into the soil. Small swales will be installed to help collect storm-water.
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.
Green Energy Capital Partners has obtained a $5.5 million grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development's Commonwealth Financing Authority, and a $500,000 Growing Greener Grant from the Department of Environmental Protection. The remaining money for the project would come from various sources, from financing to private funds.
Curtis told members of the county redevelopment authority that this project is expected to "directly put $20 million into Pennsylvania's pocket" for use on other projects.
"This is money that would not be here if the solar park wasn't built," he said. "There's a tax base that's going to benefit."
Following the presentation, authority members asked numerous questions about the operations of the solar park and what they can expect in the future.
Phyllis Bolton, director of the redevelopment authority, said she is pleased with the project.
"I feel this is a very good project for Carbon County," she said. "I know it wasn't easy for them (getting everything approved). They had to overcome a lot of hurdles."
Green Energy Capital Partners has been working on the project for over two years, with anticipated start dates being pushed back by months.