There is a lot more than gambling going on in Atlantic City. The “World’s Famous Playground” is quickly becoming one of the greenest cities in the country. Located just 60 miles from Philadelphia and 120 miles from New York City, this seaside resort is focused on creating a sustainable community for is residents and visitors.
Giant wind turbines greet you as you enter the city, you travel in CNG powered Jitneys and park at solar powered parking kiosks. Even the newest addition to the city’s skyline, the 1,900 room luxury beachfront hotel known as Revel Casino Hotel, features a two acre roof top SkyGarden, a design attraction promoted by green experts throughout the world as a way to cool buildings and reduce energy demand and associated emissions.
The City of Atlantic City, under the leadership of Mayor Lorenzo T. Langford, has demonstrated a strong commitment to reducing air emissions and reducing outdoor exposure to toxic air contaminants.
“Atlantic City has always been on the cutting edge, and with the growing interest in promoting sustainability, the City has embraced a wide area of alternative energy and green initiatives,” said Mayor Lorenzo T. Langford.
The city itself operates over 20 buildings to provide public service to the 40,000 residents and 28 million annual visitors. Total energy costs are approximately $5 million per year. The City has set an immediate goal to cut this budget by $1 million, and is well on its way to make this happen.
The sustainability strategy started by getting a good understanding of the city’s energy use and the potential for savings. A New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Grant was used to complete an energy audit of all the City’s buildings.
The audit identified $3 million in energy upgrades that if put in place would result in an annual savings of $448,580. The city immediately started in implement this audit by attracting $250,000 in energy rebates to upgrade 18 of the smaller city buildings. To address, the needs of the larger buildings like City Hall, the Public Safety Building, the Public Works Complex and the Atlantic City Aquarium, the city is pursuing an Energy Savings Improvement Plan. This plan is performance based and allows public agencies in New Jersey to fund energy efficiency improvements through the projected energy savings.
The city also determined that options provided by third party energy providers would reduce the cost of electric. New Jersey has very high electricity rates, and by joining with over 100 other cities and school districts Atlantic City was able to reduce electric rates by almost 20%.
Mayor Langford also supported an effort to expand the use of solar power in the city by installing a 597 KW solar array on the Public Works Complex at no cost to the city. Solar parking kiosks and solar trash and recycling cans were also dispatched throughout the City.
A large swath of city-owned land located on the main entrance to the city has been rezoned as an Alternative Energy Park, which can support solar and wind installations.
Given all the services delivered by the city, over $1 million is spent each year on diesel fuel and gasoline. The cost of gasoline has not stopped increasing, so to stop the rising cost of fuel the city negotiated the construction of the first municipal Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fueling Station in the State of New Jersey at its Public Works Complex. This station was built by Clean Energy at no cost to the city. A Federal Highway grant was secured to start to convert the city’s fleet to CNG.
Other green initiatives in the city include:
- Established the Atlantic City Green Team that is working towards Sustainable Jersey Certification
- Established the Atlantic City Brownfields Task Force consisting of members from federal, state and regional agencies working together to reclaim brownfields
- Promoted the Shade Tree Committee’s efforts, which has actively worked to maintain and expand green space
- Attracted a grant to complete a city-wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan
- Attracted over $25 million in grants to support the construction of a protected Pedestrian/Bike Boardwalk connecting Revel Casino Resort and Historic Gardner’s Basin on the bay;
- Promoted the development of community gardens in each of Atlantic City’s six wards
- Adopted a comprehensive Complete Streets Policy, to ensure that future improvements are built in a manner that promotes accessibility for everyone
- Continued expansion of the city’s environmental education efforts by offering new programs at the Atlantic City Aquarium; and
- Renovated many recreational parks throughout the city, three of which have synthetic turf which reduces maintenance costs and associated emissions from lawn equipment.
In addition, the City supported the following green initiatives:
- Solar at the Atlantic City Convention Center, the Wave Parking Garage, Atlantic County Courthouse and Atlantic County Office Building
- A 8 MW Solar and Wind installation at ACUA Atlantic City Wastewater Plant on a major access highway entering the City
- Support of Off-Shore Wind by working with Fishermen’s Energy to obtain a Green Acres diversion and lease City property for infrastructure needed for this project including the 55 gallon aquariums set
- Conversion of the entire Atlantic City Jitney fleet to CNG
- Approval of the SkyGarden, a lush green roof at Revel Casino Hotel
- Supported District Heating & Cooling Plants that were built by the casino industry; and
- Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at a new public parking garage
Written by Jim Rutala, the principal of Rutala Associates, LLC, a New Jersey based consulting firm, which was retained by the City of Atlantic City to develop and implement its sustainability strategy.