By John Burton
TINTON FALLS – The largest solar farm in the state, under construction for about the last year, is getting ready to be up and running in a few weeks, Mayor Michael Skudera said.
Skudera is expected to join other officials and representatives of the operating company for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 31 to celebrate the opening of Tinton Falls Solar Farms, LLC, 99 Tormee Drive, near Shafto Road.
The farm, along with being the largest in the state, is one of the largest in the northeast region of the country. The mayor said having the facility in the borough “is something to be proud of … It creates jobs, it helps the environment, it’s very positive.”
The farm, according to Skudera and the website for the operation’s parent company, Zongyi Solar America, sits on 100 acres with 85,000 ground-mounted solar panels. The panels are expected to generate 19.88 megawatts annually. That amount of electricity would be sufficient to meet the needs of about two-thirds of the borough’s households, according to Skudera, a borough that has about 20,000 residents.
That amount of electricity will save as many as 3,919 acres of trees, “equivalent to offsetting 21,012 tons of carbon dioxide per year,” according to the company’s website.
The project cost about $80 million to construct. Building began with the groundbreaking last October, according to Skudera.
The actual construction, he said, created about 200 union-wage jobs.
Tinton Falls Solar Farms, LLC, which will operate the facility, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Zongyi Solar America, a U.S.-registered, China-based company, according to Skudera.
Eddie Zeng, chief executive officer of Tinton Falls Solar Farms and general manager of Zongyi, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
The farm’s location was initially intended for a townhome development that would have had 243 single-family market-rate units and 61 affordable units. Local officials worried about the impact of a development that size on the community’s infrastructure.
Officials negotiated with the developer to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation to reduce the size of the development, freeing up the 100-acres for the farm, Skudera said.
Officials revised the local zoning ordinance to permit the farm, the mayor said.
The farm could remain the largest in New Jersey because the state has changed regulations for privately owned solar farms, now limiting them to approximately 10 megawatts, Skudera said.