Richard Meurer believes that the United States should end our dependence on foreign oil. In a solar powered community in Annandale, NJ, he's done just that. Everything, even HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), is powered by a 322kW solar farm right on the property. Renters benefit from well insulated homes with high efficiency electric heating and cooling, and 10% discount from the utility electric rate.
The public ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 5-7 p.m. at the Village Green at Annandale, and includes a random drawing for a residential solar package. In the press release, Meurer reports that the residential units are more than 50% occupied.
The development also includes retail and commercial units, and is walking distance from a NJ Transit stop on the Raritan Valley line, which makes this the kind of walkable neighborhood with public transit that we see happening more and more in Jersey City.
Meurer, in addition to owning Meurer Development, also founded Green Power Energy, a solar firm that handles residential, commercial and solar farm installations. Their installations span New Jersey, right down to the Jersey Shore, where he built zero utility units that run on a combination of geothermal heat pumps and rooftop solar.
When asked if renters in Annandale are receptive to energy efficiency and solar power, Meurer says, "I was surprised, the younger generation really believes in renewable energy. Everyone is excited about it." But at times it can be a struggle: some buyers of his Jersey Shore homes listened to his explanation of the utility savings of his properties compared to others in the neighborhood. Even though the purchase price was the same, they remarked, "Can I get one built the regular way?".
The Annandale site was an old lumbermill. Meurer reduced the energy cost of construction by reusing foundations and building materials. By owning both the development firm, and the solar farm, he was able to take advantage of federal investment incentives and keep his total construction costs level with standard construction, but the long term savings are enormous. This is another example of real estate development that both greatly reduces ecological impact and makes a profit.
Can we do this in Jersey City? Open land is scarce, but rooftops and parking lots aren't. Wall mounted panels and solar windows for high rises are a little more cutting edge but already financially viable. Higher density development makes being 100% solar a challenge, but every watt generated by solar means one less watt needed from nuclear or fossil fuels. Advances and price cuts in insulation, HVAC systems, solar electric and solar hot water have made solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency both possible and profitable, with just one caveat: buyers and renters need to include utility costs in their decision making.
Like Rich Meurer, we all have the power to take our beliefs and make them real through big plans or small daily choices. There are plenty of solar success stories in Jersey City already, and more being planned: from single homes, to big box retail, to community collaborations in Eco-Districts. Tell us your story in the comments below.
For further reading:
- Solar powered community opens (Meurer Development press release)
- New Jersey historic community goes solar - solarpowerworldonline.com
- Solar Powered Transit Village - nj.com
- Brooklyn Passive House - zeroenergy.com
And keep checking our Resources page in the Energy section.