Study says N.J. reaches milepost in solar energy generation

TRENTON – A new study states that New Jersey has achieved a milestone in solar energy.

A study prepared by Clean Power Research for The Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association and the Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association concluded New Jersey is the first state in the nation to generate more than 1 percent of its annual electricity from solar energy.

One percent may not sound like much, but for the state that is generally ranked either second in the nature in terms of solar energy installations, it is an important milepost.

After the numbers are crunched, “This indicates that electric ratepayers in the region are getting more than a two-to-one return on their investment in solar energy,” MSEIA President Dennis Wilson said in a release.

And MSEIA Vice President Lyle Rawlings said that currently New Jersey actually is generating about 1.25 percent in solar and in peak times it is likely generating as much as 3.5 percent at point of use, and as much as 5 percent when traced back to a power plant.

“And that is going to double in the next three years,’’ Rawlings said Thursday.  “If solar is going to have a 10 percent influence on peak power markets at that time, it’s going to be a major influence on the operation of the grid.”

What that means for New Jersey going forward is better management of solar markets is essential, he explained.

New Jersey utilizes a commodity-based approach for Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECS, whose values have dropped in part due to New Jersey’s success in installing solar.

However, Delaware and Connecticut use a different approach involving competitive procurement of long-term contracts, which Rawlings said New Jersey may want to consider moving toward.

“It’s more reliable than what New Jersey has, and we believe we should switch over. It’s less chaotic and in the long run, cheaper,’’ Rawlings said.

“Business needs long-term stability, and that is what is lacking’’ in the solar market, he said.

The study found that solar power delivers a “total levelized value” ranging from $256 to $318 per megawatt hour.  However, this includes what the study calls a “premium value” in the range of $150 to $200 per megawatt hour, above the value of the solar electricity generated. 

SRECS in New Jersey are currently about $60 per megawatt hour, according to Rawlings. SRECS are sold on spot markets or in long-term contracts by solar owners to recover investments.

These and other topics will be on tap during MSEIA’s one-day conference and 15th anniversary celebration Nov. 15 at the Imperia Hotel in Somerset.

Also, two lawmakers who have been instrumental in championing New Jersey’s solar energy progress will be honored at the conference.

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, (D-17), Franklin Township, and Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, will be acknowledged for their work, according to Rawlings.

Study says N.J. reaches milepost in solar energy generation