New Jersey Launching Community Solar Pilot Program

August 28, 2018
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The Community Solar Pilot Program is One Way that the State of New Jersey Plans to Meet its Clean Energy Goals

Community solar is one way that the State of New Jersey plans to meet its clean energy goals. Under the Community Solar Pilot Program, customers of an electric public utility could participate in a shared solar energy project that is remotely located from their properties, but is within their utility service territory, and obtain a credit to the customer’s utility bill equal to the electricity generated that is attributed to the customer’s participation in the solar energy project. The program would permit each customer to participate in a solar energy project with a capacity of five megawatts or less.

New Jersey Launching Community Solar Pilot Program

Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller (Unsplash.com)

More than 17 states have already established programs that allow multiple subscribers to tap into solar arrays. The goal is to allow utility customers who have shaded roofs, those living in apartments that don’t allow the installation of solar panels, and low-income individuals who can’t obtain solar equipment for financial reasons, to reap the benefits of solar power.

The Board of Public Utilities (BPU or Board) is now tasked with drafting implementing regulations. Under the law establishing the Community Solar Pilot Program (A3723/S2314), the rules and regulations developed by the board must establish:

  • A capacity limit for individual solar energy projects to a maximum of five megawatts per project;
  • An annual capacity limit for all solar energy projects under the pilot program;
  • Geographic limitations for solar energy projects and participating customers;
  • A minimum number of participating customers for each solar energy project;
  • The value of the credit on each participating customer’s bill;
  • Standards to limit the land use impact of a solar energy project
  • The provision of access to solar energy projects for low and moderate-income customers;
  • Standards to ensure the ability of residential and commercial customers to participate in solar energy projects, including residential customers in multifamily housing;
  • Standards for connection to the distribution system of an electric public utility; and
  • Provisions to minimize impacts to the distribution system of an electric public utility.

BPU must also create standards and an application process for owners of solar energy projects who wish to be included in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. The standards must include, but need not be limited to, a verification process to ensure that the solar energy projects are producing an amount of energy that is greater than or equal to the amount of energy that is being credited to its participating customer’s electric utility bills pursuant to subsection b. of this section, and consumer protection measures. Projects approved by the BPU must have at least two participating customers. Under the law, BPU may also restrict qualified solar energy projects to those located on brownfields, landfills, areas designated in need of redevelopment, in underserved communities, or on commercial rooftops.

Within three years, the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program will be converted into a permanent program with a minimum annual goal of 50 megawatts. BPU staff have already started soliciting input from solar developers, utility officials, and clean energy advocates. For businesses, there are opportunities to participate in the New Jersey renewable energy program as both subscribers and solar array hosts. Given that open space is rare in many areas of the state, the rooftops of commercial buildings and similar unused outdoor areas may be prime locations for community solar arrays.

If you have any questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, at 201-806-3364.