New Jersey's Public Service Electric & Gas to Install 200,000 Solar Panels

Feb. 13, 2009
New Jersey's largest utility announced on Feb. 10 that it will install 200,000 solar panels throughout its service area in an ambitious $773 million program.

New Jersey's largest utility announced on Feb. 10 that it will install 200,000 solar panels throughout its service area in an ambitious $773 million program. In a company statement announcing the program, Public Service Electric & Gas said solar panels would be installed everywhere from public schools to brownfields.

"The program strongly supports New Jersey's aggressive renewable energy and environmental goals and helps strengthen the competitive solar industry in the state," said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G's president and COO. "By partnering with solar developers, we will bring solar projects online more quickly and cost effectively. We will also make solar energy available to every neighborhood in our service area."

PSE&G supplies power to residents over an area of about 2,600 square miles, serving nearly three-quarters of the state's population. The company said the project would be the largest pole-attached solar installation in the country. The program would cost consumers about 10 cents a month on utility bills in the first year, and as much as 35 cents a month in five years.

PSE&G said the 120 megawatts of solar capacity will eliminate 1.7 million tons of CO2 emissions — the equivalent of removing nearly 310,000 cars from the road for one year. The company also said the solar initiative will create hundreds of green jobs and will provide a boost to the solar industry, which has been hit hard by the economic downturn. The program must still be approved by state regulators.

"Investor-owned utilities across the U.S. are in the midst of strategizing not about whether they should incorporate solar into their generation mix, but rather how and how much," said Julia Hamm, executive director, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), Washington, D.C., "There are many options available to utilities, ranging from purchasing solar kilowatt/hours from large-scale central station plants and small distributed solar plants on customers' rooftops, to owning their own central station and distributed solar facilities. The question utilities are now investigating is which business model, or combination of business models, will be most beneficial to the utility, its shareholders and its customers."

According to a SEPA press statement, PSE&G's Solar 4 All program includes a four-pronged approach: adding PV panels on up to 200,000 utility poles; installing small rooftop PV systems on government facilities; installing large-scale solar power plants on utility property, brownfields and underutilized real estate; and installing systems on affordable housing developments.

"No other utility to my knowledge has taken a similar approach," said Mike Taylor, SEPA director of research and education. "In addition to adding solar capacity to the grid, this application has the potential for great educational value, both in familiarizing utility personnel with solar technology and putting widely deployed solar in front of millions consumers."

According to PSE&G, the Solar 4 All program has been submitted to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the regulatory body has 180 days to take action on the filing. PSE&G hopes to start installation in 2009 with the entire program rolling out over a five-year period.

In related news, the Commissioners of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) announced the launch of its new Renewable Energy Incentive Program for 2009 on Feb. 3. The program will provide incentives for onsite renewable energy projects using solar, wind and biopower technologies. All ratepayers of BPU regulated utilities are eligible to participate in the program.

Residential solar projects less than or equal to 10 kW can receive a rebate of $1.75 per watt for ratepayers who complete an energy audit through the Home Performance with EnergyStar program.

The solar rebate levels will be in effect for applications received from February 3 through April 30, 2009 — subject to availability of funding. The rebate amounts are subject to change throughout the year.