California and Arizona, states with ample sunshine and ample space, were two of the top three states in terms of new solar installations during the first three months of 2012. However, neither state earned the top spot, as that distinction went to New Jersey.
The Garden State added more solar photovoltaic installations, 174 in total, than did any other state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In many respects, New Jersey is the top state in the country for solar power.
It may seem unlikely that New Jersey has flourished with solar power, but that success came as a result of a variety of factors put in place over the past five years.
How The State Boosted Solar Power One of the keys to the success of New Jersey solar installations has been its renewable energy credits. In addition to reaping the direct benefits of the electricity from photovoltaic cells, homeowners and businesses also receive credits known as solar renewable energy credits.
Helping to drive up the price of these credits is a state law dictating that a certain percentage of energy generated by utilities be from renewable energy sources. Starting in 1999, New Jersey required public utilities to have 22.5 percent of output come from renewable sources that originated in the state by 2021. On top of that, a 2010 amendment to the law specifically required utilities to generate more than 5,300 gigawatt-hours of output from solar power, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.
To meet these standards, utility companies can buy SRECs to offset emissions from sources like coal and oil. This influx of money from utility companies helps solar installations see a quicker return on the initial installation investment. The price of such credits is set by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and was set at $658 per megawatt hour for 2012, according to the DSIRE.
The SREC program made solar panel installation a fiscally sound decision for Stephen Levine of Franklin Township. He told The Star-Ledger he expects to gain about $6,500 a year from such credits for the next 20 years.
In addition to the solar credits, the state has encouraged solar panel installation through a variety of tax credits, direct loans and installation rebates, according to the DSIRE. In total, rebates and other incentives in New Jersey can cover more than 90 percent of the initial costs for installing solar panels, according to The Associated Press.
“When you go up onto the roof of a building, it’s wasted space,” NFI President Mitchell Trellis said to The Star-Ledger. “We saw values going up here and thought this was a great investment.”
As a result of the state incentives, New Jersey is one of the top states in terms of total solar panel installation and solar electricity output. According to New Jersey's Clean Energy Program, the state has installed 15,778 solar power projects since 2001, generating almost 770,000 kilowatts.
The Future of New Jersey's Solar Industry All signs point to the continued growth of New Jersey's solar industry. During the first three months of this year, about 34 percent of all of the new solar photovoltaic installations put up nationally were in New Jersey, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The State Assembly last month approved a bill that will require utilities to increase the amount of solar power used. The bill also creates a set price for SRECs to provide continued incentives for new installations, according to Bloomberg News.
“It’s about saving the jobs we’ve created in this industry,” State Representative Upendra Chivukula said to Bloomberg.