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Front Page

June 29, 2006 

County embarks on clean energy initiative
Solar plant, hybrid trucks unveiled at press conference
BY JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

PHOTOSBYJENNIFER AMATOMiddlesex County will begin using biodiesel fuel in its heavier equipment vehicles, such as this truck, to reduce the dependence on environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels. Officials are preparing a long-term conversion plan for the para-transit fleet to burn clean fuels.

SOUTH BRUNSWICK - A new Clean Air and Energy Efficiency Program for Middlesex County was announced Friday by the Middlesex County Freeholders, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Board of Public Utilities.

Freeholder H. James Polos introduced the county as a new "Showroom of Environmental Technology," which will lead the state in reviewing environmentally sound energy practices. The initiative will promote clean energy use while providing assistance to municipalities, agencies, authorities, schools and the private sector by implementing new programs and facilitating communication with government officials. A press conference announcing the initiative was held at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service at Davidsons Mill Pond Park in South Brunswick.

Middlesex County has purchased 22 hybrid vehicles, a mixture of the Escape SUV by Ford, left, and the Prius by Toyota.

"The state BPU and the DEP have recognized Middlesex County's leadership role in clean air, water and energy efficiency programs and education," said Polos, the chairman of the county's Public Works and Transportation Committee. "This partnership will go a long way in assisting our municipalities and, in turn, all our residents by reducing government operating costs and improving our environment for today and for future generations."

Included in the announcement is the installation of a 25,000-kilowatt solar power plant on the property directly in front of the Rutgers building for teaching and research purposes. In addition, the county has purchased over 20 hybrid vehicles to promote clean air emissions and gas efficiency.

"The use of hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels and other clean-energy technologies goes a long way toward reducing air pollution and improving public health," DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said. "We talk all the time at DEP that we need to change individual behaviors and personal strides, ... and I'm happy that Middlesex County is doing that and being that change in our world."

Through this program the county will also offer "how to" seminars, schedule trade shows to present new technology and equipment and schedule municipal meetings to inform local officials of the plans tailored to meet community needs. Middlesex County already operates several recycling programs, a compost facility and the Open Space Preservation and Farmland Preservation programs.

"What we are talking about today is an extension of what we have already done in Middlesex County," Polos said.

The county will receive assistance from the state in the form of grant money and rebates on the hybrid vehicles. However, officials believe the federal government must play more of an integral role in protecting the environment.

"I wish the federal government was doing more with energy efficiency and alternative fuels," Congressman Frank Pallone said. "The [county and state] are taking initiatives on the issue and the government should emulate it."

He added that this huge step within the county will enable him to go to Washington and say, "Look what North Brunswick is doing."

For residents to individually contribute to the reduction in fossil fuels, the Clean Power Choice Program from the Board of Utilities offers solar, wind, landfill gas or low-impact or small hydro power to individual homeowners.

The cost is approximately $5 to $9 per month for an average home using 700 kilowatts of energy per month depending on the type of power used. For more information call (800) 515-5353 or visit www.NJCleanPower.com.