We have a serious problem with warehouse sprawl in New Jersey. As our former director Jeff Tittel always said, we’re turning from the Garden State into the Warehouse State. First and foremost, we need to make sure that warehouses can’t be built on environmentally sensitive areas, sensitive farmland and near residential areas across the state. Not only do these developments create more runoff pollution, but the truck traffic can result in congestion, roadway damage and noise and air pollution. When warehouses are built in the proper areas, we believe that they should comply with the highest standards to incorporate clean energy technology and to reduce emissions. We should be using these developments to further our renewable energy goals, which includes making sure we can build solar electric generation structures on the rooftops.
We encourage regional and community planning that avoids warehouse development near protected farms and residential communities and instead supports the use of brownfield sites or sites for redevelopment. Before any warehouse is approved, we suggest conducting a traffic study, air quality study and environmental impact study. Construction of the facility and operation of the warehouse should also comply with the highest standards to incorporate clean energy technology and to reduce emissions. These standards include integration of solar generation systems on roof and parking lots, efficient use of exterior/interior lighting, electric or thermal exchange heating systems, and EV charging for cargo delivery trucks, forklifts, and local delivery trucks.
Warehouses are one of the main places we can put large-scale solar projects. This is critical because without utility-scale solar projects, we’ll never be able to reach the state’s goal of 32.2 GW of solar by 2050. However, many warehouses aren’t built in a way that will support the weight of solar panels on the roof. This practice means that it can be expensive and difficult to put solar on warehouses that are already built. That is why we need legislation like Senate Bill 3504 and Assembly Bill 3352 to make sure that new warehouses are solar-ready.
Building new warehouses with roofs that can support solar panels is critical to expand the state’s clean energy program. Utility-scale solar projects have greater financial flexibility, which makes these large-scale projects even more important. Having solar-ready warehouses also helps expand community solar programs that are primarily targeted to help low- and moderate-income families save on their electricity bills without incurring any upfront investment. We need legislation like S3504/A3352 to reduce air pollution, fight climate change, and create more green jobs.
Megan Steele is the communications coordinator for the Sierra Club New Jersey Chapter.