Municipalities Use Solar Power to Save Money

By Michael Hill

You can find them just about everywhere. Attached to utility poles along roadways. Planted in huge gardens. Tucked away, behind a fence. On the roof of the Jersey Gardens mall. The Township of Woodbridge has stationed them on top of four of its public buildings.

“Any building that had the roof capacity and the infrastructure capacity where ever we could put solar panels we could,” said Mayor John McCormac.

McCormac says Woodbridge installed the solar panels six years ago and it’s inspired the private sector. Hess has a huge field of solar panels and so have other energy providers here.

The list of New Jersey towns going solar is growing and so are the savings after the initial investments and city leaders collecting tax credits and rebates and other offers to go green.

“After about six years, we’re just about even. So from now on it’s all gravy now,” McCormac said.

McCormac says about half of the township’s government runs on solar and it’s saving taxpayers about a $150,000 a year.

In Elizabeth, Mayor Chris Bollwage says the solar panels on top of Jersey Gardens add up to huge savings. So, he’s looking to put them on rooftops of city buildings with the help of a $1.1 million grant from the Obama administration.

The non-profit Sustainable New Jersey says 161 cities or towns have applied for financial awards for their solar projects. One hundred seven of those projects were completed after Jan. 1, 2011 and 41 of those projects were approved for awards.

McCormac says he doesn’t know if Woodbridge government has any more roof space to add panels.

“I like green, I like being green environmentally and I like being green financially and solar panels are perfect. They fit right into both halves. They save electricity and they save money and you can’t get a better combo,” he said.

For five straight years, Woodbridge has won the New Jersey League of Municipalities’ competition as the most sustainable city in the state.

McCormac calls it leading by example.

“We’ve been branded now and we’re happy about that. We are the environmental town, the Most environmental town in the state of New Jersey. That’s fantastic! People see me around and say, ‘Aw you beat us again,’ and I say, ‘Yeah we beat you again and I’m going to beat you next time too.’ But, it’s leading by example and we’re happy to do that,” he said.

New Jersey towns looking to go green and save green can offer their ideas and plans to go solar and beyond to the non-profit program called Sustainable New Jersey.