JACKSON – Six Flags Great Adventure and KDC Solar have unveiled what is being called the state’s largest net-metered solar project, comprised of almost 60,000 solar panels, at the theme park on Route 537, Jackson.
Six Flags Great Adventure partnered with KDC Solar on a 23.5-megawatt solar project, which was built and will be operated by KDC Solar.
During a June 12 event at the theme park, executives said the project ranks as New Jersey’s largest net metered solar project and distinguishes Six Flags Great Adventure as one of the world’s first solar-powered theme parks.
Key features of the solar project include 11 megawatts of solar carports over three parking lots; 12.5 megawatts on 40 acres of ground-mounted solar panels; a net metering system that allows Six Flags to generate its own clean energy and export power into the grid to serve nearby homes and businesses; a significant reduction of the park’s reliance on fossil fuels; the preservation of more than 200 acres of forest, wetlands and wetlands transition areas; and the use of more than 99,000 hours of union labor by KDC Solar in constructing the project.
Alan Epstein, the CEO of KDC Solar, said the project will power almost the entire facility, “which is very unique.”
“We designed it, we built it, we own it and we will operate it, and we are selling electricity directly to Six Flags here. From the panels to an inverter, from the inverter to the substation, they use the power,” Epstein said.
He said he believes solar power is the perfect answer for theme parks like Great Adventure.
“First of all, other parks like this, since electricity is a major cost factor and they also are environmentally conscious. (Solar) is the perfect answer for a facility like this, large electric users,” Epstein said. “This (project) has a carbon offset of 24,000 tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to like 53 million vehicle miles being avoided by this, or 23 million pounds of coal being offset by this facility,” Epstein said.
John Winkler, the president of Six Flags Great Adventure, said the project “is a big deal.”
“When sustainability started to become a thing, we were all on board with all the micro-strategies and recycling all of our products, our metals, our plastics, etc. The macro-strategy was the more complicated piece and we have been looking for solar partners for over a decade,” Winkler said.
“This (project) is the culmination of eight years of strategy, hard work and design. So to do that and to be able to tell the world, our guests and our employees that we are going to be at least 98% solar powered means a lot to us,” he said.
Winkler said Six Flags wants to be a good steward of the environment.
“We are just thrilled, today is a great day for us,” he said.
Jackson Councilman Ken Bressi said the project “has been a long time coming.”
“I happen to have been on the Planning Board for all the hearings (regarding the solar project). It is such as positive project, especially at the end and even having environmentalists endorse it. It is great for Jackson, it is great for Six Flags, you cannot say anything negative about it. It is really a thing of the future. I am very proud to have it in Jackson and so proud to be part of it, I just cannot believe it is happening after all this time,” Bressi said.
Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, which objected to the initial plans for the project, said, “today is an important day for promoting solar energy in Jackson and in New Jersey.”
“We are glad this project is finally a reality after the original problems with it. When you fight a project, you can come together with a compromise. Now we can go forward with a much-lessened impact than the original proposal, with only 40 acres (of forest) removed rather than close to 100 acres.
“The conditions of the compromise were necessary because building a solar farm should be a positive for the environment and should not cause environmental damage in the process,” Tittel said.
The conditions agreed to by the parties that were involved in the matter included creating dens for the endangered northern pine snake and providing a $25,000 endowment for the holders of the conservation easements to monitor the land.
“Six Flags will get a solar farm while we get to preserve forested lands; everyone wins today. New Jersey could have the first amusement park in the country powered by solar power.
“This project is an example of what New Jersey should be doing more of. New Jersey has the demand for solar, but our market is on the brink of crashing while solar jobs have dropped by 10%,” Tittel said.