The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) on Dec. 20 announced it has approved 45 applications in the first year of its Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.
The NJBPU in a statement Friday said the projects, with total generation capacity of 77.61 MW, will be designed by local governments, community groups, and private developers. The agency said projects will be located on landfills, at brownfield sites, on rooftops, and parking structure canopies.
Community solar projects include solar arrays in which the generation serves multiple subscribers, which can be home or businesses wanting to use renewable energy generated off-site.
The board said it received 252 applications in the first year of the program. The NJBPU in its statement said the chosen applications will all serve low-to-moderate income communities in the state. The group had originally reserved 40% of the program’s scope for projects in which at least 51% of the capacity would serve low- to moderate-income communities.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has set a state goal of 100% clean energy by 2050, and made the community solar program one component. The NJBPU in June released a draft plan of how the state could achieve its goal, relying on a mix of electrification, renewables, energy storage, nuclear energy, and grid modernization. The state plans to develop 600 MW of energy storage of 2021, and expects to deploy more than 330,000 electric vehicles by 2025.
State lawmakers already approved as much as $300 million in annual subsidies for New Jersey’s three nuclear reactors, all owned and operated by the Public Service Enterprise Group, the state’s largest utility.
“My [a]dministration is committed to ensuring that all New Jersey residents are able to live and work in a healthy and clean environment,” said Murphy in a statement. “The Community Solar Energy Pilot Program will not only provide clean energy to our state’s residents, but it will also expand access to renewable energy for low and moderate income communities who have been previously unable to enjoy the benefits of solar energy.”
“There is considerable excitement about community solar in New Jersey, and for all the right reasons, as these projects will grant underserved communities a long-overdue opportunity to participate in clean energy,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president, NJBPU, in a statement. “It’s critical to ensure equitable access to clean energy, delivering the benefits of solar to those who were previously shut out of an industry that typically only wealthier communities could afford.”
The NJBPU has said it plans to continue the community solar program for at least another two years, and expects to approve projects representing an additional 75 MW of capacity. The agency said the first three years of the program will determine whether a permanent program will be developed.
—Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).