MILLVILLE - The city will soon have a "green team" that local officials said will lead an effort to make a more healthy, economical and environmentally friendly municipality.

The team will eventually help lead the city toward being certified by Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit, nonpartisan branch of state government that helps municipalities develop green programs.

Participation in the program comes with a financial carrot: The more points a municipality earns by completing green projects in the Sustainable Jersey program, the more grant money becomes available for additional green projects. Those municipalities also get better access to partnerships with various companies and organizations interested in developing green projects.

Assistant City Engineer Richard Jones said the municipality has already finished some of those projects, including rain gardens, athletic field lighting that reduces light pollution and a solar energy field that will produce about 90 percent of the power needed to run the local wastewater treatment plant. That project will also save the city about $2.3 million in energy costs over the next 15 years, local officials said.

"We've got a good head start," said city Planner Trainee Samantha Fisher.

City Commission on Tuesday voted 5-0 to make Fisher the city's agent, or lead person, in its participation with the Sustainable Jersey program.

City Commission also voted 5-0 to authorize formation of the green team of seven to 11 members to work toward eventually Sustainable Jersey certification. The team will consist of a cross-section of local residents, including a City Commission member and representatives from the business community, faith-based institutions, civic groups and other organizations.

That team is formally charged with helping the city to "save tax dollars, ensure clean land, air and water, and improve working and living environments to build a community that is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially."

"We're getting more into green, clean energy," City Commissioner Dale Finch said. "This is another step in that direction."

"We're looking for more savings for the taxpayer," Mayor Tim Shannon said.

Sustainable Jersey is an initiative of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities' Mayors' Committee for a Green Future, the College of New Jersey's Municipal Land Use Center, the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University, the state Department of Environmental Protection, The Rutgers Center for Green Building, the state Board of Public Utilities and a coalition of other organizations.

Some of the items for which municipalities can earn points while participating in the program include farmland preservation, developing green building policies and water conservation measures.

The solar energy field at the wastewater treatment plant on Fowser Road is perhaps the biggest green venture in the city.

The $5 million investment by Marina Energy LLC, a subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, was built at no cost to the municipality. The facility involves 4,928 solar panels built on 7.4 acres. Another 6.8 acres of ground was cleared to prevent shading of the solar field.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197

According to information provided by the city, the solar field has, since Feb. 4, eliminated about 645 tons of carbon dioxide that would have been produced as a byproduct of traditional power-generating measures.

The clean energy produced is enough to power 5,140 60-watt light bulbs for eight hours a day for an entire year, according to the city.