On July 31, 2017, two major studies on global warming were released showing that we are currently on a path towards a temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100, a temperature rise that scientists predict will lead to rising seas, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes and the melting of the Arctic. The Paris Climate Accord provides a framework for nations to limit this temperature increase and prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change, but that is now in jeopardy with the Trump administration withdrawing from this global agreement.
Fortunately, many state and local governments are taking up the fight against global warming that has been abandoned at the federal level. Unfortunately, West Windsor Township is not among those communities.
Ironically, on the same day that the results of the global warming studies were released, the West Windsor Township Council voted 3-2 to table any further discussions relating to the proposed solar micro-grid, a project that would have resulted in a financial benefit to West Windsor and an environmental benefit to the world.
Earlier this year, council members Hemant Marathe and Linda Geevers rejected a plan sponsored by PSE&G and the state of New Jersey that would have provided a solar array and micro-grid with battery backup that would integrate with the existing backup generators and connect township building buildings. In the event of a power outage, our micro-grid would be able to operate independently and provide a power supply to township buildings with three layers of power backup (solar, battery and gas powered generators). All of this was available to West Windsor free of charge.
In addition, we would receive ground rent for the land that contained the solar array. At the time Councilman Marathe rejected this plan, one of his primary concerns was that the township had not considered power purchase agreements, which could bring the township more revenue than the proposed plan.
On July 31, 2017, following this recommendation from Councilman Marathe to investigate a power purchase agreement (PPA), the administration and the Environmental Commission returned to council to present a new plan that involved a solar array and micro-grid with battery backup through a PPA that again provided a financial benefit to the township with no capital investment.
The new proposal was again met with opposition from council members Marathe and Geevers. They insist that the township should connect the municipal buildings to the existing generators using a micro-grid without the solar array. Under the Marathe/Geevers proposal, we will not receive any ground rent or financial benefit whatsoever but rather, the taxpayers of West Windsor would be responsible for the capital investment to develop, install and maintain the micro-grid, costs that would have been borne by the PPA developer.
West Windsor has mayoral and council elections coming up in November. While we might imagine local issues are not connected to national policies, this vote on solar energy is proof to the contrary. Council members Marathe, Geevers and their running mate Virginia Manzari have all taken strong stances against solar energy in our community even when the solar project has a positive impact on the township finances. We might rationalize that one small solar array in West Windsor does not make a difference, but what if communities all across the nation do the same? In West Windsor, we need to be strong advocates for responsible environmental policy, requiring the same of our elected officials.
Hamilton is a West Windsor Councilwoman