New Jersey Proposes Addition of Solar Power Facilities to its Green Initiative

Solar and Wind Energy Generation facilities may soon join the category of uses designated as permitted of right by New Jersey statute rather than by individual municipal ordinance, thus preempting municipal zoning powers granted under the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et seq. (MLUL).

Identical Bills, Senate S2126 and Assembly A3139 are pending before their respective house of the New Jersey’s legislature and would amend the MLUL to provide that Solar and or Wind Energy Generation Facilities, when installed on the sites of former landfills, quarries and other extractive industries, are permitted uses. This status would be equally applicable to both public and private sites where landfills, quarries or other extractive industries are closed or closing.

Environmentally sensitive areas remain subject to regulation. Although the Bills specifically permit Solar Facilities in the environmentally sensitive Pinelands Region, per the amendment that cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on July 16, 2010, Wind Generation would not be permitted in the Pinelands. Both Solar and Wind Generation Facilities are permitted in landfills and quarries located elsewhere in the State. Notably, the Bills do not regulate height or size of the Solar or Wind Generation equipment, and size or bulk standards are presumably left to municipal zoning ordinance control.

These Bills would allow such unattractive sites as former landfills be put to productive use and encourage the growth of alternative energy sources in the state. This would be particularly welcome in the Pinelands where it is estimated there are 80 old landfills in towns which do not have the money to properly cap them. Under the proposed Bills, these towns would be able to obtain needed revenues from solar energy developers.

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