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SECAUCUS, NJ-Earlier this week, Hartz Mountain Industries Inc. switched on solar energy panels installed atop its 80,000-square-foot Meadowlands Exposition Center. The company projects the building, which houses trade and consumer shows, will obtain about 40% of its electrical power from the solar arrays.

Lawrence Garb, EVP at locally based Hartz Mountain, says the installation is part of a sustainability effort the company embarked on back in late 2007. “One of the missions, among other things, was to invest in renewable energy and try to reduce our carbon footprint by using renewable energy,” he says. “We picked the convention center because it’s directly opposite our office building here, so it was something we could see and touch close to us. We operate it ourselves so there wasn’t any negotiation we had to do with a tenant. Also, the building is built like a warehouse, but it’s a heavy energy user because of it being an exposition trade floor.”

Garb says that Hartz plans to install solar roofs on other buildings in its 39-million-square-foot portfolio. It is also the first completed solar installation in the state to be partially funded by PSE&G’s Solar Loan Program.

Approved by the Board of Public Utilities in April, the two-year, $105-million pilot program allows PSE&G to offer loans to companies that install solar panels on their roofs. The loans can finance 40% to 60% of the cost of solar-panel installation, and can be repaid by using solar credits (SRECs).

SunPower Corp. designed and placed the solar panels at the Exposition Center for a total cost of $2.5 million, Garb says. PSE&G provided $1.6 million in loans with the balance invested by Hartz, which in turn owns the renewable energy credits associated with the system. It will monetize their value as repayment of the loan.

Garb says that private investment in solar energy is an important step in furthering Gov. Corzine’s energy master plan. “Private investment like this is the only way those goals will be reached,” he says. “Although capital is scarce these days for these types of projects, they do make economic sense and it’s good business as well as good for the environment.”

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