Bergen County towns object to PSE&G's ugly solar panel utility poles | Science updates | -- Your State. Your News.

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Bergen County towns object to PSE&G's ugly solar panel utility poles

sunwave101210_optBY PAM LOBLEY

Towns all over New Jersey have been getting solar panels put in place on utility poles, often on residential streets.

Wow, is that ugly.

Actually, more than just ugly. Strange looking. I always thought of solar panels as discreet gray things stuck on someone’s roof. I never imagined they’d be hanging over my curb like a weird cookie sheet.

PSE&G has installed 82,000 of the 180,000 panels for the project, and this is projected to double the state’s solar capacity, providing 40 million watts of power, enough to supply electricity to 6,600 homes, said Al Matos, PSE&G's vice president of Renewable and Energy Solutions.

The project was all going according to plan until the installations reached Bergen County, when many towns began objecting about the eyesores these panels are creating. The panels themselves are 3x5 feet, and when perched up high on utility poles, stick out over the street.

I don’t know why other towns haven’t complained. You’re telling me that people in Montclair and Chatham just let PSE&G slap up a bunch of hanging trays along their residential streets without uttering a word of protest?

Oradell resident Dick Joel was quite angry about the one that was put up and currently hangs over his driveway. He is particularly annoyed that PSE&G came to his town and just started erecting them without any notice.

Well, PSE&G owns the utility poles, so they have the law on their side, even though the municipalities own the land on which the pole sits. Matos stated that the law provides a clear definition that PSE&G can use the right of way to install equipment related to both the supply and distribution of electricity.

However, officials from the town of Westwood recently met with PSE&G and got them to temporarily halt the installations so locations more agreeable to residents could be investigated. Other towns are trying to do the same thing: Ridgewood is considering the Park and Ride on Route 17 and Wyckoff wants to try the roofs of public buildings. Towns need to be wary: in Fairlawn a bunch of panels were put up on one street but not on any others that did have similar conditions. So what happens to the property value of those houses? Are you going to buy a house with a big solar panel out front when you could buy one a block away that doesn’t have a panel?

The utility poles chosen for the panels must have a clear southern or southwest exposure with a 120-volt line attached to it so the panel can be hooked directly into the grid. The pole can't be cluttered with other hardware, such as telephone or cable TV equipment. The panels must be installed a minimum of 15 feet off the ground to comply with safety codes. The solar energy goes directly to the homes near the panel, Matos said.

Uh oh. I have a utility pole at the end of my driveway and we get a ton of sun on our side of the street. I love my town, but I have to say my street has enough ugly stuff already. It’s narrow, and there are some No Parking signs up that regulate who can park on the street during commuting hours. There are lots of utility poles, of course, with those grim, gray transformer boxes, and there are scads of wires criss-crossing over driveways and snaking into everyone’s house.

But I’ve become used to looking at it. We’ve all had to get used to looking at ugly stuff. How about those cell towers that look like fir trees? Do you like those? How about big power plants with chain-link fences around them? How about parking garages, or the dump, or for that matter, strip malls. Ugly.

I don’t want to be one of those “not in my back yard” types, but I am definitely one of those “not in my front yard” types. We have train stations, schools, and business centers where these things could be set up. Of course, they’re still ugly, but at least they’re not MY ugly.

Is it too much to ask to be “green” and somewhat aesthetic?

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Sign up for her mailing list at


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Comments (6)
6 Friday, 29 April 2011 13:09
Now lets look at the $515million that PSE&G was mandated to spend on this and that at the end of the day it will cost these home owners over $158K each to go green instead of using something like PEM designed CNG power Hydrogen Fuel generators which are 100% efficient, work day AND night and also have the byproduct of heat generation for the winter months to heat numerous surrounds buildings for free... but this uses CNG as in CLEAN natural gas, we have more of it here in the US then Saudi Arabia has oil....

Its wonderful to go Green, but you have to factor in the silly things like efficiency, ROI (Return on Investment) secondary factors and benefits as well as better alternatives.... Just because solar is COOL doesn't mean it is the best route....
5 Monday, 11 April 2011 15:02
@ pseg customers are being "swindled"
Your excuses are baseless and irrelevant. Get some medications and calm down. You act as if the power companies have some obligation to please your every whim when they're doing a service. Time to be progressive and get with the times. This not a sacrifice in any sense and you act like it is. Please.. kindly... stfu.
4 Sunday, 03 April 2011 11:12
pseg customers are being swindled
As a resident of Oradell, I have 3 outside my home. Not only are they ugly to look at, but PSE&G keeps telling my that the transformers and wires are "just as ugly" and I'll grow visually accustomed to the panels. Do they think we're stupid? Not only do we now have transformers and wires, they have ADDED panels? How much more crap are they going to put up there? Also, ones talking about that. Customers now pay more for solar panels each month. yes, it's only 10 cents now, but that cost is expected to rise because solar is more expensive. WHY IS NO ONE ADDRESSING THIS? Also, do residents realize that this is free electricity that PSE&G has and they are charging for it? Yup, it's free, you can choose to do it in your home, but PSE&G has come in as some knight on a white horse acting like they are "helping us." They aren't, they're cheating us. What is no one addressing this? "Eyesore" yes, they are, but we are being swindled here. For once, I'd like the Bergen Record, or the Patch to do an investigative report of that. THAT IS THE ISSUE. Instead, the media is making us look like we are NIMBY's (not in my back yard) and there is much much more to it.
3 Saturday, 02 April 2011 07:42
i am amazed everyday at the idiots in this country and i am no rocket scientist myself. you might not be so pretty yourself but they haven't kicked you out of the neighborhood yet. if you don't like them don't look at them. we have to do everything we can to save energy. as a matter of fact, you are wasting my energy right now. bye
2 Friday, 01 April 2011 14:17
I think this is one of the dumbest arguments against the solar panels that I've heard. You don't like the way they look?!!! C'mon, now. We want to reduce our dependency on oil nations but only if it looks nice? Reducing the property values is not a good argument either -- do you really care that much what is on the overloaded telephone poles along your street? Then complain about the reams of ugly wires the cable company put up.

I noticed the panels going up weeks ago in my neighborhood. They didn't bother me. I was curious to know what they were powering. If they are contributing to the power supply, I'm all for them. You could put a wind turbine in my yard (or on top of my house for that matter) and I wouldn't care what it looked like as long as it was reducing the burning of non-renewable fuel.

Next time, give yourself a few days to think about it before protesting over aesthetics. Perhaps the purpose is greater than your concern for your property values.
1 Tuesday, 29 March 2011 03:06
So let me get this straight.

Americans want clean water (not from fracking), safety (not from nuclear), low oil prices, and their cookie too. Retarded people in the U.S.... really.

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