JACKSON – An agreement has been reached between a leading environmental group and Six Flags Great Adventure over a proposed project that will see the creation of the world’s first solar-powered theme park.
Six Flags Great Adventure and its partner KDC Solar announced on Jan. 24 that construction would soon start on the project which the New Jersey Sierra Club had originally opposed. The club challenged the park’s initial plans which would have destroyed close to 100 acres of pines forest including high-quality streams for 22 megawatts of solar power.
Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said in a prepared statement that “sometimes people think compromising gives away too much but in this case, we came out with a deal that benefits everyone.”
Tittel said that his group was not officially signed onto the settlement. “We support it but are withdrawing from the case because of technical issues. We are part of the original lawsuit, along with other groups such as Clean Water Action, NJ Conservation Foundation, Save Barnegat Bay, Environment New Jersey, and the Crosswicks-Doctors Creek Watershed Association.”
Tittel added that the settlement “is a win for the environment and green energy. We were able to come to an agreement that puts half of the panels on the parking lot and only 40 acres cut down. Part of the agreement means that once those panels are done, the 40 acres is replanted.”
The theme park will also deed restrict 253 acres of open space to make up for the lost acreage, according to the agreement. Six Flags agreed to help the endangered northern pine snake, whose habitat may be disturbed by the project. Besides the 40 acres, the rest of the solar panels will go on a developed parking lot.
“This deal is right for Six Flags and it’s right for us,” Tittel said in the release which also thanked KDC and Great Adventure for resolving the dispute.
Great Adventure stated in its own release that the plan would not only reduce the park’s carbon footprint but would add additional jobs at the park. KDC Solar will use more than 99,000 hours of union labor in constructing this project.
The park’s spokeswoman Kristin B Fitzgerald, said in an interview that “This is a massive project, and will provide all of our electricity needs. One question I have been asked in the past is, what happens if the panels don’t generate enough energy – will parts of the park not operate? The solar system will be connected to the grid, and supply energy to the grid while we are not operational and not operating at peak capacity. That means others will be able to utilize the energy generated by our system. When the park is in full operation, the power we generate should be enough to power the entire property. If for some reason it is not at a given time, we will be able to pull the additional power from the grid.”
“This is a proud day for our company. This project represents a giant step toward becoming a net-zero carbon facility,” said Six Flags Great Adventure Park President John Winkler in a prepared statement. “We are pleased that we were able to come to a satisfactory agreement with all parties involved.”
“Six Flags has been a patient and cooperative partner throughout this process, and we look forward to delivering clean renewable electricity to Six Flags. Once operational, this project will be the largest net metered solar project in the State of New Jersey,” Alan Epstein, President and CEO of KDC Solar stated in the release.
The 23.5-megawatt solar project will include solar carports over select parking lots and 40 acres of ground-mounted solar panels. Six Flags expects construction to begin by March and for the solar facility to be fully operational by the end of 2019. The production of solar energy will enable the park to limit its reliance on fossil fuels.
“We’ve been involved in this litigation for years and we think this is the best deal we could come up with. Soon New Jersey will have the first amusement park in the country powered by solar power,” Tittel said.