New Jersey has been a stronghold for rooftop solar power but thus far hasn’t seen much progress in community solar, which can help lower-income residents get access to clean energy if they can’t put it on their roof. That’s about set to change. Last week the state’s utility commission approved rules for a three-year Community Solar Energy Pilot Program in line with Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) clean energy agenda.
Community solar power allows people access to solar energy when they can’t put solar power on their homes or businesses. It also allows renters and condo owners without the ability to install solar power on their residences a chance to subscribe through their utility to use energy from a solar farm, which can also help make solar power less costly and can benefit low- and middle-income residents.
“Environmental justice for those who have been left behind is one of the cornerstones of my administration,” Murphy stated. “The Community Solar Pilot Program will enable those who have not been able to access the benefits of solar to do so.”
In its first year, the pilot is limited to 75 megawatts (MWs) of community solar projects. In the second and third years it will seek to add at least 75 MWs for each of the second and third years. Fully 40 percent of the capacity will be reserved for projects that benefit low- and moderate-income people. New Jersey said the pilot would cover the electric usage of 45,000 homes.
“Solar has been extremely successful in New Jersey—with the state having passed 100,000 installations in 2018—but has not been accessible for everyone,” said New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) President Joseph Fiordaliso. “The point of this pilot program is to take the first step toward ensuring that we change this dynamic.”
Now that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) has approved the three-year Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Rules the pilot can move to the next step, which is developing the application for the pilot. The pilot will will generate important market information and data that will help the state create a permanent community solar program.
The program will help New Jersey move toward Murphy’s goal of powering the state with 100 percent clean energy by 2050. His plan includes adding in 3,500 MWs of offshore wind energy by 2030 and transitioning a more cost-effective solar energy incentive program in the state as the state nears fulfilling its current solar program.Tweet