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    Solar array powers city parking garage

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008
    BY BILL MOONEY

    TRENTON -- On a clear day from the top of the six-story Clinton Commons garage near the Trenton train station, one can see the historic Battle Monument or the venerable Broad Street Bank Building. The domes of churches and the rooftops of office buildings gleam in the midday sun.

    But yesterday, the sun also shone down through a clear sky on an important component of the city's -- and the state's -- future.

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    Political and business leaders cut the ribbon on a 12,000-square-foot solar-panel installation atop the 1,699-space garage at 66 Wallenberg Ave. Officials of garage owner Nexus Properties and of the state Board of Public Utilities said it is the first such solar-powered commercial parking garage in the state.

    In addition to providing power for the 22-year-old garage, the array of more than 600 solar panels provides shelter for six stations at which electric or hybrid vehicles can be recharged, and on clear days the canopy of roughly 18-square-foot panels will generate enough electricity, roughly 201 kilowatt hours, so that Lawrence-based Nexus can sell energy back into the grid.

    "We are here to celebrate the innovation of this site," said Jeanne Fox, president of the state Board of Public Utilities. As part of Gov. Jon Corzine's clean energy plan, by the year 2020 the state is supposed to generate approximately 20 percent of its power needs from renewable sources.

    To assist Nexus with the $1.6 million project, the state made $659,330 available in the form of rebates. In addition, according to Nexus vice president for operations William Harris, the company accumulates renewable energy credits that can be sold on an open energy market. According to Harris, a credit is worth 1,000 kilowatt hours; credits are trading on the open market for approximately $400 at the moment, and Nexus will look to generate approximately 200 credits with each garage.

    And this is just the beginning. On the other side of the train station, at the 14-year-old, six-story, Station Plaza garage, Nexus and NJ Transit are in partnership, installing a similar solar array as well as six more recharging stations.

    The number of recharging stations can be expanded to 20, but Harris and Stephen Clevett, executive vice president of Premier Power Renewable Energy Inc., a California-based company that installed the solar panels, said they will wait to see how much demand there is for the six initial recharging stations before deciding whether to expand.

    For now, the six 110-volt stations are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and afford a commuter the opportunity to park an electric-powered vehicle at the garage, ride a train to work, and have a recharged vehicle waiting when they return, according to Harris and Nexus executive vice president Andrea Sussman.

    When more people drive hybrid vehicles and rely on mass transit, these are indicators that people are beginning to take energy awareness seriously, according to Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. "People are beginning to make individual tradeoffs," he said.

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