Fifty acres of solar panels are now generating electric power on the grounds of a former Mount Olive landfill once identified by the federal government as a toxic Superfund site.
JCP&L this week announced that it has completed a grid connection to the "largest landfill solar project in North America."
The array south of Route 80 was built by owner CEP Renewables LLC of Red Bank through a public-private partnership with the township.
Mount Olive and CEP broke ground in 2021 to redevelop the property into a solar energy facility, with CEP acquiring the 65-acre Combe Fill North Landfill via foreclosure.
"The landfill had a long and complicated history that challenged our community with environmental and financial hurdles," said Mount Olive Mayor Rob Greenbaum. "By taking the site through the redevelopment process, and through a partnership with designated redeveloper CEP Renewables, this site has become a model for brownfield and landfill redevelopment projects in New Jersey."
The 25.6-megawatt Mount Olive Solar Field will provide clean power for more than 4,000 homes. The township expect to recoup a $2.3 million tax lien on the property which will generate about $50,000 in annual tax revenue going forward, according to Greenbaum.
The landfill, located behind the ITC Crossing South shopping center off routes 46 and 206, operated as a municipal landfill from 1966 to 1978. But it was not properly closed when the owners went bankrupt in 1981, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection later discovered contaminated groundwater beneath the site and in private residential wells nearby.
After the landfill was declared a federal Superfund site, the EPA and state partnered on a cleanup plan that began in 1986 and was declared complete in 1991. The site was removed from the Superfund list in 2004.
CEP currently has 16 solar projects under development on former landfills or other contaminated "brownfield" sites, the company said. It has completed more than 100 megawatts of solar projects in New Jersey in support of the state’s Energy Master Plan.
"The Mount Olive solar project will contribute substantially to New Jersey's renewable energy mandate of 50% clean energy by 2030," said CEP Renewables CEO Gary Cicero.
Jim Fakult, president of New Jersey operations for JCP&L parent company FirstEnergy said the utility was "pleased to have worked with CEP Renewables to connect this innovative solar project to the grid and enable the delivery of clean energy to local communities."
New Jersey has 114 sites on the federal Superfund list, which includes contaminated locations identified by the EPA as poising a threat to public health or the environment. Morris County has 10 of those sites, more than the total in 12 states.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.