For Richard Meurer, it was a personal project that led to the founding of not one, but two companies.
It was 2008. He had sold the elevator business he built over 12 years and was retired at age 48. And he wanted to build a new home at the Jersey Shore.
A home that ran entirely on solar power and heat that was pumped from the ground.
But Meurer quickly found something was missing.
“As I was building it, I realized that there weren’t really great qualified contractors out there to do solar and geothermal,” he said. “From there, Green Power Energy was born.”
It was the start of his Hunterdon County-based renewable energy firm. And once he proved the numbers worked for a “true zero-utility home,” he said, it was all he needed to start the second venture about two years later: developing a mixed-use community powered entirely by solar energy.
That vision was realized earlier this month when Meurer opened The Village Green at Annandale, a 17-unit apartment and townhome community in Clinton Township at the site of a former lumberyard. The rail-served property occupies more than half of a nearly 6-acre site just off Interstate 78, directly across the street from the 1,400-panel, ground-mounted solar array that keeps the lights on.
It’s a concept that Meurer said is unique to New Jersey. And with the project now open and on display, he’s focused on what’s next for his two companies.
“I want to do one project at a time and do it right — and make sure the benefits are there so I can show other people, ‘Here’s the numbers. …. Here is what it’s going to look like.’ ”
Green Power Energy and Meurer Development are only the latest ventures for Meurer, who spent nearly 20 years in the elevator business that culminated in him starting his own company in 1997. The firm, International Elevator Co., had reached about $16 million in revenue when he sold it in 2008 to spend more time with his family.
Along the way, he had developed a fascination for renewable energy, he said, driven in part by his dislike for “the idea of us going to other countries to buy fossil fuel.” So it wasn’t long before he tried his hand at it — by building that first zero-utility home in Beach Haven West, which used a solar array to help offset the extra utility costs that come from the geothermal pumping system.