NJ Superfund Site to Become Solar Park
The GEMS Landfill in New Jersey, one of the first Superfund sites in the United States, is set to become the site of a new solar energy park.
Named after its last operator Gloucester Environmental Services, Inc., the GEMS landfill spans 60 acres in Gloucester Township. The solar panel project was first approved in 2012 but several roadblocks, like the need to rebid for a redeveloper in 2015, prevented the project from moving forward.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October at the site to kick off the plans for a 25-acre solar panel field. According to reports, once completed, the site will produce up to 4.5 megawatts of electricity and offset 4,313 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
“We are extremely excited to break ground on the GEMS Solar Park this November,” said Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer at the ceremony. “This joint project with Syncarpha Capital will bring about 4.5 MW of clean sustainable energy produced in Gloucester Township. I'm thrilled to see what had been one-of-the-worst-polluted superfund sites in the country in the 1980s becoming the shining beacon of renewable energy source in our town.”
The GEMS Landfill has been owned by Gloucester Township, New Jersey since the 1950s. The area was used as a municipal and industrial dumping ground until it was closed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 1980.
According to the EPA, the site was placed on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List in September 1983. A plan to address contamination at the site was chosen in 1985, including capping the landfill and extracting and treating contaminated groundwater.
The site borders Holly Run Stream, which flows into the nearby Briar Lake, in which the NJDEP found volatile organic compounds in the area. Upon initial investigation into the contamination of the site—including sampling and testing of air, landfill gases, surface water, soil and sediment—heavy metals like arsenic, barium and lead were also found.
The plan then divided into two phases, with Phase 1 serving to reduce the amount of leachate generated and hazards posed by landfill gases and Phase 2 designing and constructing a groundwater extraction and onsite pretreatment system. Phase 1 was completed in 1994 and Phase 2 was completed in 1999.
The EPA states that multiple other projects were completed or ongoing after the Phase 2 plans, including:
An Ecological Risk Assessment Report conducting in March 2015 reportedly indicated that no further ecological risk assessments are required. Most of the cleanup was reportedly completed in 2004, with long-term cleanup operation and maintenance ongoing. The EPA and NJDEP continually review data to ensure the solution operates as intended.
Construction will be completed by Syncarpha Capital LLC in partnership with energy consultant Blue Sky Power and the township. A deal was first signed with Syncarpha in 2016.
"We are very excited to see this GEMS project finally ready to begin construction," said Cliff Chapman, Managing Partner of Syncarpha Capital.
"Transforming one of the nation's most polluted landfills into a clean energy producing solar park has been Mayor Dave Mayer's mission for the last nine years," said Blue Sky Power CEO Ben Parvey. "With his leadership and that of the Gloucester Township council, this project and the many solar projects on municipal and school district property across town have cemented Gloucester Township's place as one the most sustainable communities in the United States."
The solar array will reportedly consist of 11,430 solar panels with three different output capacities:
“We needed to design the system to be completely above grade since we cannot excavate and disturb the landfill cap,” said Annie Jung, Project Developer for Syncarpha. “We couldn’t use screws or pile-driven posts. We designed the arrays to have ballasted foundations. We also had to put (alternating current) cables on cable trays instead of burying or trenching them.”
The solar park is expected to produce nearly 6.1 million kilowatt hours of zero-emissions power annually. According to reports, a typical New Jersey home uses about 8,902 kilowatt hours per year, so the energy produced would power about 684 homes.
The array will be connected to the regional grid through Atlantic City Electric. Syncarpha also plans to lease the site from the township, yielding approximately $1 million in lease revenue to Gloucester Township over 25 years.
The $8.5 million project will be paid for by Syncarpha. Construction is expected to be completed in the spring.