Prospect Park 1st in NJ to adopt community energy plan

DMR Architects tapped to prep, guide transition

Jessica Perry//March 24, 2023

Prospect Park 1st in NJ to adopt community energy plan

DMR Architects tapped to prep, guide transition

Jessica Perry//March 24, 2023

A municipality in Passaic County is the first in the state to adopt a local plan that prioritizes sustainable energy initiatives in line with New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan under a program from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

Last June, Prospect Park was one of 46 communities awarded a grant – in this case, for $25,000 – to create such a Community Energy Plan under the redesigned program. Using those funds, it retained DMR Architects to prepare its blueprint for the initiative, and ultimately named the Hasbrouck Heights-based firm planning consultant to guide implementation of the agenda, which was adopted by the borough March 20.

A public hearing on the proposal, during which DMR was available to answer community questions, was held ahead of the vote during the regular borough council meeting that same day. According to a statement from Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, a reading of the plan held earlier in the month elicited “overwhelming support from our residents and businesses.”

“This is the next step for us toward making more clean energy sources available and reducing GHG emissions,” he said.

To help the Garden State achieve Gov. Phil Murphy’s goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2050, Prospect Park will implement more than two dozen initiatives over a five-year period with the help of DMR, including:

  • The installation of renewable energy sources, energy storage and public EV charging stations on municipal properties, as well as improving energy efficiency of municipal buildings;
  • Creating opportunities for community solar programs that allow the public to purchase solar energy from off-site sources, with an emphasis on availability and affordability for low- and moderate-income households;
  • Outreach campaigns to increase resident and business participation in incentive programs offered by the state, federal government and utilities like PSE&G to transition to electric vehicles, make energy efficient improvements and install solar and other forms of renewable energy;
  • Replacing older borough fleet vehicles with newer, preferably electric alternatives, and adopt fuel efficient fleet vehicle management practices;
  • Making energy planning inclusive of low- and moderate-income and non-English speaking households; and
  • Adopting zoning and regulatory language that permits renewable energy production and energy storage

The full plan is available here.

NJBPU approved $820,000 in grants under the Community Energy Plan in June 2022. At the time, Prospect Park was one of 24 of those 46 awardees designated as overburdened, and therefore eligible for the $25,000 award.

According to Daniel Hauben, senior project planner for DMR, there are a wealth of opportunities available that makes now the right time to craft a Community Energy Plan.

Bright idea

Prospect Park is also on the verge of becoming the first municipality in the state to complete a LED streetlight conversion for the entire borough, according to the March 22 announcement—an effort underway in partnership with PSE&G.

“There are state-level grants, tax credits from the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, and incentives through utility companies available right now,” he said in a statement. “As planners committed to building healthier and more affordable communities, our team at DMR is equipped to guide our municipal clients through the resources that are available to them now.”

The plan describes this moment in time as a “particularly advantageous” one to make such clean energy, energy savings and environmentally friendly infrastructure investments due to their being prioritized by administrations at both the state and federal level.

“Many of the grants, rebates, and supportive programs identified in this Plan may not be available under future administrations,” the text cautions, “and some are scheduled to expire or shrink, or may not be renewed after 2023.”

Next steps

Now, according to the plan prepared by DMR, Prospect Park will establish a “Green Team,” made up of elected officials, borough staff and community members to set an agenda, priorities and to implement specified actions of this approved proposal, in addition to those laid out by Sustainable Jersey for certification.

Tracey Woods, energy program manager for Sustainable Jersey, a network of municipalities, schools and school districts working to further sustainability in the state, applauded the borough’s mayor and council for recognizing the necessity of making this kind of move. “Their commitment to change shows that any municipality can address climate change in a meaningful way,” she said.

Looking ahead, the borough will also explore the costs and benefits of pursuing “other opportunities,” identified by DMR in the plan.