Submitted by Richard Campbell (’00)
You will soon hear a lot of self-congratulatory remarks from your administration about the solar facility it intends to build on campus.
Dr. Donohue will wear a fake construction hat for a groundbreaking photo with a shiny shovel. She’ll tell reporters how “green” the college is and how it is leading the way towards a better future.
Don’t fall for it. The only “green” the college or its commercial partners care about is the kind you find in your wallet. Or, more precisely, in theirs.
The college’s plan calls for the destruction of an ecosystem by removing 130 60-year old trees. Once those annoyances are out of its way, the school will cover 65 acres of productive farmland with 42,000 solar panels and 8-foot security fencing.
This land has been in agricultural use for hundreds of years. Its soil is classified as in the 20% best for farming in the country. And once the panels are hammered into it, the land will be permanently unfit for agriculture.
Don’t trust people who take a chainsaw to woodlands in the name of the environment.
Lack of Community Engagement
Farming and open space are part of the heritage of this area. But we should not be surprised that the college doesn’t recognize that.
The best schools strive to be active and engaged partners with the communities in which they reside. MCCC has never made any such effort, choosing instead to exist in a bubble.
This project is going forward without any meaningful engagement with the school’s host communities – including the neighbors who will live next door to it. MCCC presented residents with superficial information and made it clear it did so only as “a courtesy.”
Look at the strip club-style signs it erected across the street from 250-year-old farmhouses and you’ll see just how out of touch MCCC is with its surroundings.
The proposed facility depends on a risky financial agreement with a commercial partner. SunLight General Capital is only two years old and expects only 9% of its revenue to come from generating electricity. The rest is reliant on tax credits and incentives, which have plummeted in value since the project was conceived.
Representatives from the company have stated publicly that they cannot make a profit on the project at current rates. Even worse, almost all of its business is tied up in the New Jersey solar market – where the bubble has burst.
So what happens when this company’s strategy of relying on “Monopoly money” fails? As you might have guessed, a “guaranty” in the deal requires Mercer County taxpayers to pick up the tab.
Smart and Sustainable Development
I want to make it clear that we do not oppose solar energy. We believe it is vital to our future and should be encouraged. But this “land grab” epitomizes the worst practices in development.
The current plan shows a lack of vision, leadership, and good planning. It is a coward’s green initiative.
What has the school done to reduce its energy consumption?
MCCC could have engaged its students, faculty, and community to find innovative ways to build renewable energy, including on roofs and over parking lots. These are already considered best practices elsewhere.
But the school did not have the courage to do so. Instead, it is taking the cheap and easy way out – selling off one of the area’s greatest assets for a few extra dollars.
And we’ll all be stuck paying for it for years to come.
To learn more, visit SmarterSolarNJ.com.
-Richard Campbell (MCCC ‘00)
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Monday, May 21, MCCC President, Dr. Patricia Donohue submitted a rebuttal to the letter above. It can be read by clicking here.