The county is planning to build solar panels over the detention basin behind the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter as an alternative to an original plan to build them over the police department parking lot.
According to township engineer Robert Bogart, the county was initially planning to install solar panels over that parking lot at the municipal building, with the panels handling the energy consumption of the entire building.
But, Bogart said, it was determined that that plan wouldn’t work.
“There were issues of the affect of the lighting at the turf field there, with the shadow that the light fixtures would cast on the panels,” he said.
County representatives discussed their new plan at the Jan. 8 planning board meeting to install the panels in the area of the detention basin that serves the municipal building.
“It is the same project,” Bogart said. “It is behind the animal shelter, between that and Route 202/206.”
This new location, Bogart said, will actually make the panels less visible than they would have been in the parking lot.
“To some degree, they won’t even be seen,” he said. “And the panels will serve the municipal complex, the only land that remains at the municipal building.”
Bogart said he had actually heard comments from some residents who felt that having the panels over the police department parking lot made the building look more industrial.
“So there was some aesthetic consideration,” he said. “Although I don’t know how widespread that opinion was.”
The project is still being completely paid for by the county.
“The detention basin is a pretty good size,” Bogart said. “In the old configuration, it would have covered the whole police department area.”
According to assistant township engineer Tom Forsythe, the construction on the panels will be starting in the spring, and should be completed by the fall.
And, Forsythe said, they will actually cover more of the building's electrical demand than they would have being built in the parking lot.
“They are supposed to cover about 30 percent of our typical demand, and that’s pretty good,” he said. “We’re a little bit lower than when they were over the parking lot, and then we were able to expand the project a little bit.”
“There is more area in the detention basing so they get a better range of the sun,” he added. ‘Theoretically, it should reduce our electrical costs by one-third.”