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New solar field project in Monroe County nears approval

If given final approval by the DEP, the 80-megawatt solar field would be the largest in the Poconos.

MONROE COUNTY, Pa. — The view from Big Pocono State Park shows a lush, green landscape of the Pocono Mountains. But if given the green light by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, a solar power company could take down nearly 500 acres of trees for the Swiftwater Solar Project.

"Anybody that visits Big Pocono State Park or Camelback will now see a scar in the landscape as a result of this project," said Alexander Jackson, the executive director of the Brodhead Watershed Association.

During a Monday night meeting, Pocono Township officials granted Apex Clean Energy conditional approval to build a 475-acre solar field.

The site located off Back Mountain Road and Sullivan Trail is owned by Pocono Manor Investors, who will lease the land to Apex.

"We went through an exhaustive engineering process to review this project and its location," said Taylor Munoz, Pocono Township manager.  

The land is zoned recreational, but Munoz says the solar field is considered an essential utility, which allows it to be located in the area. 

"These panels are generating 80 megawatts of energy, which is going right into PPL transmission lines, that go right through the property, and ultimately that energy is bought in the form of credits by other companies, Fortune 500 companies," Munoz said.

Jackson attended the Monday meeting, raising concerns about what this will do for the environment.

"It's going to clear-cut over 450 acres in an exceptional value watershed which is going to have domino effects on all the nearby eco-systems and potentially threaten the water quality of Swiftwater creek," Jackson said.

Some residents support solar, just not the area the developer wants to put it.

"I don't think anybody is opposed to it/ I think it's the spot because it's so beautiful up there and the trees, why there and their part in the environment, plus the animals," said Jeannie Uvino of Pocono Township.

Township officials say the DEP still has to grant final approval.


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