New Jersey, A New Solar Energy Capital

Sure, it doesn’t sound like the most likely place for a boom in solar energy, but that’s exactly what’s starting to take place. The outlook for renewable energy – solar in particular – in New Jersey officially went from good to even better last week as the State finalized the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) for solar power, which calls for 90 MW of solar by 2008.

Washington, D.C. – March 26, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Leaders from national and international solar energy companies gathered in Trenton to release new data that shows that the State of New Jersey has become the best state for solar energy business in the U.S. Since January of 2002, the solar industry in New Jersey has grown 550%, from little under 1 megawatt (MW) installed to an expected 6 MWs this year, according to the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association (Mid-Atlantic SEIA). The state’s RPS is largely responsible for this significant growth. Solar energy businesses have grown 800% when including designers, installers, architects, distributors, manufacturers and assemblers. That growth does not even reflect the multiplier effect for suppliers, services, and income to the local economy from companies and their employees. “Five years after energy deregulation, we can now claim that NJ has a new economic sector – one of solar energy – one that is sustainable and will not create more pollution, but resolve it”, said Lyle Rawlings, President of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, who also designs and installs solar systems and zero energy homes. “Many of us have been striving for over twenty years to make solar energy part of daily life and it is not overstating the case to say that solar energy has finally arrived in New Jersey” The Solar energy industry is expected to grow at a steady pace over the next four years as a result of the NJ Board of Public Utilities historic vote which approved the RPS requiring power from 90 MWs of solar PV be purchased by the state’s utilities by 2008. The BPU is expected to increase the solar requirement to even further by 2020 as suggested by a task force formed by Governor McGreevey last year. “With its vote last Wednesday, the BPU, and the McGreevey Administration, boldly took the mantle of leadership for this nation and created a transformation from reliance on scarce, dangerous fossil fuels to clean, inexhaustible sources of energy,” Rawlings said. “By adopting this renewable portfolio standard with a solar requirement (that part is key), together with the existing NJ Clean Energy Program, a strategic vision based on investment in the growth of renewables now, will become the great industries of this new century. We find ourselves at a turning point in human history and that is the historic nature of this vote.” The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) praised as “historic” New Jersey’s initiatives that could help it overtake California as the nation’s leading solar market. “New Jersey has become the solar capital of the nation, said Glenn Hamer, Executive Director of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Across the nation, solar energy companies, investors, and energy businesses of all types are pointing to New Jersey and plan to do business here first because of the energy policies of NJ and the commitment to growing renewable energy from the NJ Board of Public Utilities and the McGreevey administration. Many Governors dream of creating new economic sectors that create jobs while enhancing health and quality of life. In Washington, we struggle to achieve the most minor of incentives from Congress and the White House. New Jersey’s leadership will make other states, Congress, and the Bush Administration take notice.” New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey and NJ Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne M. Fox have led the Garden State to embrace solar and other clean energy technologies. Recognizing New Jersey’s abundant, idle rooftops as a prime location to generate new power for the state, they have put in place a set of incentives that will help clean the state’s air while generating jobs for their constituents. The state is also developing a strong “net metering” law that will make it easy for solar users to connect to the grid and provide their excess electricity into the system. Jim Groelinger, CEO of New Jersey’s only photovoltaic module manufacturer, Energy Photovoltaics, (EPV), in Lawrenceville, predicted significant growth in the manufacturing sector for PV modules and products in New Jersey. “After thirty years in all facets of the energy business, it’s my pleasure to be leading a solar energy company that’s based in the state that’s become a policy leader in the country,” Groelinger said. “We are participating in an energy revolution that has the potential to change the world.” Tom Leyden, Vice-President of PowerLight Corporation, a major solar energy manufacturer and integrator based in California and New Jersey, noted the wide disparity and uneven playing field that has historically existed and continues to exist between fossil fuels and renewable energy. “We have grown by two-fold since 2001,” Leyden said. “This happened because two Senators (Inverso and Codey) were brave enough to act in the energy deregulation law to create a fund to assist renewables and because Governor McGreevey and BPU President Jeanne Fox have had the foresight and the fortitude to grow renewable energy in New Jersey, particularly solar. Without the incentives and programs that the BPU has put into place, solar would still be stagnant. That is because there remains a vast uneven playing field on the federal level that continues to support fossil fuels with subsidies, incentives, research funds, tax relief, favorable regulations and laws that benefit oil exploration while harming the environment, Leyden explained. “Despite all the benefits of solar energy and the continued need to do aggressive research, Congress and the Bush Administration continue to under fund and virtually ignore renewable energy,” Leyden said. “Only $72 million was put into solar energy research on the federal level last year, yet the nuclear energy R&D budget was $300 million.” One of the most visible parts of this new solar economy is from Energy Outfitters, based in Oregon, who recently opened up a distribution warehouse in New Jersey and is hiring sales employees and solar installers. Glenn Harris, of Oregon and General Manager of Energy Outfitters, explained why they came into New Jersey: “The New Jersey Clean Energy program and the vote this past Wednesday is a model for a growing renewable energy industry that should be emulated throughout the country,” Harris said. “As a national value added renewable energy distributor, we are committed to NJ and the policies of the McGreevey administration. We will continue to add people, expand our facility in Cedar Grove, and invest financially to help develop New Jersey’s renewable energy infrastructure and ensure that all stakeholders enjoy a high quality, positive solar electric experience.”

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