Walters Group Proposes One of New Jersey's Largest Solar Farms

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The 6.5-megawatt facility in southern Ocean County is one of the largest and most ambitious solar power projects being proposed in the state.

Stafford Park will add another green feather in its cap with the installation of a solar farm that will produce up to 70% of the power needed to operate the business park when it is fully built out. The 6.5-megawatt facility in southern Ocean County is one of the largest and most ambitious solar power projects being proposed in the state, according to Walters Group, the park’s designated redeveloper.

Construction of the 1,026 solar arrays is expected to get underway this fall, according to Walters who plans to build and install the panels on the surface of a closed/capped landfill. The project will sit on approximately 30 acres. “This is a positive environmental use of the landfill, which will benefit the county and its residents,” said Joseph Del Duca, partner and general counsel for Walters Group.

The project is in keeping with encouragement by state and federal governments to build solar arrays on capped landfills. In fact, Senator Frank Lautenberg D-NJ has introduced a bill (HR 3329) that proposes incentives for wind, solar and geothermal energy to be developed on brownfield sites.

New Jersey is a frontrunner in the production of renewable energy, and the Stafford Park project is a reflection of that growth. The state’s successful rebate and incentive programs have placed it second in the country in solar installation and production after California. The energy that will be produced by the solar farm at Stafford Park will be enough to power about 1,500 homes and eliminate some 6,700 tons of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of removing over 1,200 cars from the road for one year.

Stafford Park is Pursuing LEED Certification
Currently, Stafford Park is the only known project of its kind pursuing LEED certification through the US Green Building Council. To date, the retail portion of Stafford Park has attained a minimum of LEED Silver certification. And the 112-unit affordable housing component, Stafford Park Apartments, represents the first LEED-Gold certified affordable housing project in the state. “The advent of LEED has created a trend in the construction industry toward building smarter, sustainable living spaces,” added Ed Walters, Jr., president and founder of the Walters Group.

From the start, the successful redevelopment of Stafford Park has been an exemplary public and private initiative with environmental considerations a key component of the project. The 370-acre brownfield redevelopment, located within the Regional Growth area of the Pinelands region, involved a lengthy permitting process. That process included working with the Pinelands Commission and the NJDEP on a seven-year species management plan to preserve critical habitat. As part of the $2 million plan, rare plants were relocated, new habitat for tree frogs was constructed, new habitat for the northern pine snake was created, and an extensive monitoring program was implemented. Walters then embarked on the environmental remediation process that included the costly clean-up of two leaching landfills that were contaminating groundwater. The landfill closure efforts were certified by NJDEP in May of 2009.

The long list of environmental attributes that make Stafford Park unique also includes a storm water system, which retains all water onsite for infiltration that the developer believes is the highest standard achieved in New Jersey. The entire project is irrigated with recaptured rainwater. A series of bio-retention basins was installed at Route 72 that captures over half of the untreated storm water from that highway before it can discharge into open waters. Also, the wetlands system adjacent to the highway is being recharged by clean rainwater from rooftops rather than the dirty water that was previously being discharged to the wetlands system from the road.

“We have utilized the most innovative measures available to redevelop Stafford Park,” said Del Duca. “Our efforts have far exceeded what we were required to do by the Pinelands Commission.”

Renewable Energy an Added Benefit
Walters took the lead in the development of renewable energy at Stafford Park. While working with the town, the developer began exploring the site’s potential in 2007 for wind and solar energy options. Since then they have constructed solar arrays on the rooftops of the retail facilities and Stafford Park Apartments. “The rooftop solar provides about 30% of the energy needs for the retail stores they serve and nearly 100% of the common area power needs for the affordable housing residents,” explains Del Duca.

Walters is currently awaiting approvals for the construction of 216 market-rate apartments at Stafford Park. “They will be the first apartments in the state to have their heating, cooling, and electricity generated by solar energy,” stated Del Duca.

The three-story residential buildings will be comprised of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and two-bedroom townhomes. The units will range in size from 950 square feet to 1,425 square feet. A bank of garages will be made available for rent. The apartments will be designed with a certification goal of LEED Silver and will be equipped with Energy Star appliances. The community will feature on-site amenities, including a state-of-the-art clubhouse with fitness center, community room, on-site management and maintenance, basketball court, tennis court, tot-lot and barbeque area.

“The environmental, economic and other public benefits derived from the redevelopment of Stafford Park are undeniable,” concluded Del Duca. “Our firm has made a sustainability commitment, and we are working to eventually use 100 percent renewable energy.”

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