Plans to cover much of the Lippincott Centre office complex parking area with solar energy panel carports were unanimously approved Thursday night by the Evesham Planning Board.
The 10 carport solar tops — the largest would be 42½ feet wide and nearly 296 feet long — would provide electricity for nearly all of the usage at the 14-acre complex, which mainly houses corporate headquarters and other offices for the Virtua Health System. The two office buildings total 176,000 square feet, according to board documents.
"The entire system will feed both buildings, behind the meter, and offset around 90% to 95% of their existing usage that they're currently taking from the grid," Stan Tolstunov, vice president of solar for Brightcore Energy, the Armonk, New York firm overseeing the project, told the board.
Board member Jay Parikh made the motion, seconded by member CraigHigginbotham, that was approved 7-0 by the board, whose members include Mayor Jaclyn Veasey.
The board's planner, Scott D. Taylor, vice president of the Taylor Design Group Inc. of Mount Laurel, noted in his letter reviewing the application that the project would remove 29 existing parking lot trees. He recommended that the board require the owner to add new plantings. The applicant, the property owner of AFA Real Estate Partners of Yardley, Pennsylvania, agreed to plant landscaping to make up for the tree removal.
Variances granted included a shorter Lippincott Drive front-yard setback (100 feet required and 83.9 feet proposed) and permission for the canopies in the front yard, where Evesham does not permit accessory structures in a front yard, according to Taylor's letter.
Tolstunov testified his firm had built several similar solar canopy projects, including a 3.7-megawatt parking deck at the Short Hills Mall in Essex County.
He said the Lippincott project, at Lippincott Drive and Centre Boulevard near Route 73, would include an emergency shutoff accessible by the fire department, utility company, and owner. The glare from the panels are minimized because they are built in a "Y" shape, and mainly face each other, he said.
The construction project will take about four months during a time when the parking lot is mostly empty because so many employees are working from home during the COVID-19 epidemic, Tolstunov explained. He did not specify when the project would start.
Owner and applicant AFA was represented at the hearing by lawyer Richard Goldstein of the Cherry Hill office of Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller.
The 10 solar carports shown on project plans in the Planning Board application. The two office buildings are to the left of the panels.