Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fate of NJ solar industry rescue bill now up to Governor

The Administration of New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie once referred to solar energy as an economic "albatross." Now it appears Christie will sign legislation to keep the bird flying.

The governor reportedly is preparing to sign into law a complicated, 37-page bill (S-1925) that received final legislative approval in the state Senate yesterday.

It is designed to rescue a formerly high-flying industry that in recent months has been described as close to collapse due to the over expansion of solar panel installations. That oversupply significantly drove down the value of credits paid for the energy that the panels produce.

The value dropped to the point that industry participants feared financing for new projects in New Jersey would dry up, jeopardizing companies that claim to provide up to 10,000 jobs in the Garden State.

The fix involves stabilizing the value of the solar credits by goosing up the timetable of required solar energy purchases by utilities and other energy providers and by requiring utilities to add more solar to their energy portfolios.

The bill also makes it easier for public entities to take advantage of solar system installations.

Under current law, a solar installation can only produce power for the building it is attached to and then receive credits for additional energy produced that is sent back into the energy grid.

S-1925 would allow for "net-metering," which means school districts, counties, municipalities, and state entities could receive credits for the extra energy produced, even if they operate multiple, solar-paneled buildings and those structures are not connected.

Solar installations on brownfields and p
roperly closed old landfills receive special benefits under the bill.

It also 
encourages projects developed for large manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies while discouraging large-scale projects on farmland.

Related news stories:

Christie expected to sign solar energy bill to bolster weak demand for credits
Compromise bill could help calm fears of collapse in solar sector
Legislature Passes Bill To Aid NJ’s Solar Energy Market

Governor Christie comments on New Jersey solar legislation  

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