LEWISBURG — Bucknell University withdrew plans to have a solar energy farm developed near its golf course.
The university cited a lack of zoning concerning solar farms in East Buffalo Township, stating it would revisit the proposal should such ordinance be enacted.
“Because East Buffalo Township presently does not have a solar zoning ordinance, Bucknell has withdrawn its solar project proposal for University-owned land near the top of the Bucknell Golf Club’s driving range, along Abbey Lane,” according to a two-sentence statement on the topic by the university.
“The University remains committed to green, renewable energy and will pursue a future solar project with Encore Renewable Energy of Burlington, Vt. after an East Buffalo Township solar zoning ordinance is established,” the statement reads.
Bucknell announced Aug. 21 its intent to have an Encore Renewable Energy design and install a 5,000-panel solar energy system across 8 acres. The array, capable of generating 2.1 megawatts at peak output, was to be installed just beyond the driving range at the golf club between Abbey Lane and Smoketown Road.
Concerns about zoning, longterm maintenance and potential impact on nearby homeowners caused members of the township planning commission to table a vote on the proposal the same night the university’s announcement was made.
The land development must be recommended by the commission for final consideration with the township board of supervisors.
“I think it’s a good call on their part,” said commission member and township commissioner, Jim Murphy. “The local neighbors around there were not as happy about it as they thought.”
Murphy said sightlines from nearby properties, not only those immediately abutting the development area, drew concern from township residents. Though adjacent property owners were contacted about the solar field plan, those nearby but not bordering the golf course weren’t made aware, Murphy said.
Jim Knight is a planning commission member but also works as Bucknell’s director for energy and utilities. He recused himself from decisions on the project but assisted in presenting the plan at the Aug. 21 meeting.
Knight said there is no firm deadline to finalize a zoning ordinance for solar fields. He added that Bucknell’s isn’t the only one to inspire such discussions, noting a large solar field being pursued near Montandon as well as Union County farmers having been contacted by developers.
“We’re going to start discussions this month,” Knight said. “I would hope we could do it within six months,” he said, adding that timeline may be aggressive.
Murphy had a more aggressive timeline in mind: “a month or two.” Whenever the zoning matter is settled, Murphy expects Bucknell will resubmit the plans.
"Bucknell has identified multiple locations on University-owned land where a solar project could be developed, although the proposed Bucknell Golf Club driving range location was determined to be optimal. However, the University will not commit to a location until the East Buffalo Township solar zoning ordinance is established," Mike Ferlazzo, director of Bucknell's media relations department, said.