200 Attend Middlesex County Environmental Forum

More than 200 municipal and school officials, environmentalists and students met at the Middlesex County Fire Academy on Oct. 17 for the “Finding the Green to Go Green” Forum hosted by the Middlesex County Showroom of Environmental Technology (MCSET). From left to right: Lee Solomon, President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Michele Siekerka, Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Economic Growth and Green Energy in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Middlesex County Freeholder H. James Polos addressed the crowd, which included participation from the New York Police Department, which brought a fully marked hybrid patrol car to the event. (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County)

MIDDLESEX COUNTY — About 200 municipal and school officials, environmentalists and students met at the Middlesex County Fire Academy on Oct. 17 to discuss the benefits of and how to fund and implement green technology and sustainable planning in the county.

“Finding the Green to Go Green” was hosted by the Middlesex County Showroom of Environmental Technology (MCSET), a program created by Freeholder H. James Polos to guide municipal and local school leaders in their efforts to save energy and become sustainable.

“I am thrilled to see so many governing and school officials from throughout Middlesex County interested in learning more about green technologies and how to implement them in their own municipalities,” Freeholder Polos said. “It is important that we take advantage of all the local grants and programs available to us and it is encouraging to see municipal and educational leaders working together to improve our communities and the health of our residents.”

“Green energy solutions are critical to our environment and to our sustainability efforts,” said Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano. “It is my belief that today’s discussions will also shed light on how they make good financial sense for Middlesex County, our municipal and school partners and our citizens.”

As a showroom, Middlesex County became the first – and only – county in the state to coordinate resources and facilitate information between state agencies and local officials in order to boost local efforts to obtain grant funding and program support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the State Board of Public Utilities.

“Middlesex County has formed this unique partnership with the State DEP and BPU to leverage their knowledge and access grant funds to help our local partners achieve real savings and real results in their efforts to go “Green,”” Polos said.

The DEP and the BPU have used the Middlesex County approach as a model statewide. Keynote speakers for the Green Forum were Michele Siekerka, DEP Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Economic Growth and Green Energy, and BPU President Lee Solomon.

“NJDEP is privileged to partner with MCSET as they continue to advance green energy opportunities for Middlesex County. Their actions in promoting and executing on policies and projects, including solar, hybrids and LEED certification for county owned buildings, represents their role as leaders in this arena,” Siekerka said. “As the state agency that supports sustainability efforts for the state, we look forward to our continued partnership and encourage others at all levels of government to follow suit.”

“Middlesex County has been an incubator and example of local government working cooperatively with State agencies to improve the quality of life in the community and the State, as a whole,” Solomon said.

Through the showroom, the county hosts training sessions and trade shows showcasing new technology and equipment. This week’s forum is the third large-scale training program hosted by MCSET since its inception.

One of the highlights of the event was the presence of a fully marked, NYPD hybrid patrol car. The purpose of bringing the police cruiser was to show local officials how hybrid technology could be incorporated into public safety.

Middlesex County became the first county in New Jersey to create a County Sustainability Plan. The county also performed an energy audit at its Apple Orchard Lane complex in North Brunswick.

Earlier this year, the county announced its Solar Energy Savings Program, through which a massive solar panel project will be built at the Apple Orchard complex. It is installing enough solar panels to provide 100 percent of the power needs there. The county expects to save more than $13 million over 15 years through this project alone.

County officials have invited local municipalities and school districts to join the Solar Energy Savings Program so that they can determine if installations in their towns will yield the same type of savings.

Middlesex County College also is constructing a solar panel project, which is expected to save $12 million over 15 years. In another campus project, the College opened the LEED-certified David B. Crabiel Hall in January.

As part of the forum, participants attended workshops on green programs and funding opportunities, energy efficient buildings and energy audits, and electric vehicles. The latest in environmental technology equipment also was on display.

Among Middlesex County’s other sustainability initiatives are:

  • Since 2001, the county has incorporated hybrid and bio-diesel fuel vehicles into its fleet.
  • Common Cents, a cooperative purchasing program that utilizes the county’s buying power to assist municipalities in reducing their costs for goods and services, equipment and supplies.
  • Curbside Recycling Program, operated by the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, which collects co-mingled recyclables for 14 towns throughout the county. The county is consistently among the top recycling counties in the state.
  • Middlesex County Area Transit Shuttles (MCAT), which provide fixed route, economical service for senior citizens, individuals with disabilities and the general public.

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