Standards Lauded for New Jersey Solar Boom

Since New Jersey’s simplified solar interconnection standards were put into place, 200 new systems have connected to the power grid, and another 1000 projects are in the pipeline.

The state’s strong solar growth prompted the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) to highlight how important standards like those in New Jersey have been to promoting and streamlining the deployment of solar PV. The Garden State has produced a booming solar market in record time, using well-planned financial incentives and, critically, a system of rules that make it possible for solar consumers to hook their system up to the grid. “The interconnection and net metering system in New Jersey is the gold standard and should be adopted post haste, and in its entirety, by any state who’s serious about distributed generation,” said Colin Murchie, Legislative Director for SEIA. New Jersey’s interconnection standards and simplified net metering now have a proven track record as a low-cost, easy-to-implement regulatory tool that has removed all significant barriers to distributed generation. As other states seek to establish renewable energy industries, SEIA urges them to emulate New Jersey’s success by adopting its well-considered, uniform standard – now responsible for a 550 percent, three-year growth in that state’s solar market. Interconnection standards regulate how distributed generation technologies (i.e. fuel cells, solar, small wind generators, and microturbines) interconnect to the electric grid. While streamlined standards ensure the reliability of the grid and the safety of utility workers, overly complex, lengthy and unnecessary rules drive up the costs and choke off development of these innovative clean industries. The New Jersey standard provides for expedited processing, with fixed fees if the generator passes a set of conservative screening criteria. The process is easy to understand and completely transparent. Utility discretion, which has in the past been abused to the detriment of small generators, is limited – even allowing for automatic approval of small home generators should a utility choose not to reply to their customer. For larger commercial systems, New Jersey allows up to two MW of customer-sited interconnected and net-metered facilities. The New Jersey rules build on the work by utility companies and government agencies nationwide in developing the IEEE 1547 and UL safety and operational standards. Equipment costs are kept low by allowing pre-tested units certified as safe to be installed without unnecessary additional tests and redundant equipment. The New Jersey rule also includes a balanced fee schedule that removes barriers to the grid, without subsidizing individual customers. Explicit deadlines give utilities time to assess system impacts, while ensuring that customers do not get trapped in “approval limbo.” New Jersey’s two-megawatt net metering limit is the largest in the country for solar and encourages larger, low-cost systems. The higher limit is key to allowing solar to contribute a significant share of future energy needs. Simplified net metering where the customer can use the full output of their renewable generator – without the imposition of fees, insurance requirements or offsets – is critical to making solar cost-effective. “New Jersey’s model is far and away the best framework for a successful program – you can see that when the barriers are removed, renewable energy can provide a significant portion of our energy needs,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President. “We encourage other states to adopt this proven model for a flourishing, well-regulated solar energy market.”
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