Strong policy makes New Jersey a top solar state

New Jersey is one of the top solar states in the U.S. because of strong policies that are making the renewable energy source accessible to everyday people.

Sun-generated electricity is taking off around the country, but some areas of the nation are seeing stronger growth than others. While many believe that sunlight is the largest driving factor when it comes to solar deployment, this is simply not the case. It is true that sunny California is the leading state when it comes to installed capacity, but this is due much more to the fact that the Golden State has pursued aggressive policies to encourage the use of renewable power.

Some may be surprised to know that New Jersey, a state that is only a fraction of the size of California, is the nation's third leading state in terms of solar installations. Not known for its particularly sunny climate, New Jersey has been able to climb to this position because of the state policies in place that are making solar installations more affordable. This is a vital component to the state industry because New Jersey doesn't have the kind of wide area that California does to create particularly large solar plants like the Ivanpah facility on the California-Nevada border.

New report credits strong policies
Recently, Terra Verde Capital Management LLC, a clean tech investment management firm, published a report about the impressive solar growth in the Garden State. New Jersey has been a leader when it comes to employing deployment strategies. One program has been the state renewable energy portfolio, which requires utilities in the state to have part of their energy supplies come from renewable sources. This program has opened up the opportunity for solar renewable energy credits, which a system earns each time it generates a megawatt hour of power. The system owner can then sell these credits on an open market to make further returns on his or her investment. These kinds of schemes are working to make solar more accessible to a wider range of people.

"New Jersey's success with solar reflects a policy shift in the way state governments are approaching sustainability," said Richard Bookbinder, a managing member of the capital management group and the author of the report. "The successful implementation of solar clearly reflects a changing energy landscape with opportunities for investment."

The report noted that since 2010, solar energy deployment in the Garden State has grown by 252 percent.

Falling costs drive growth
The Solar Energy Industries Association reported that in 2013, 236 megawatts of solar electric capacity were installed in New Jersey. This was the fifth most in the country for the year. This brought the state's total to over 1,200 megawatts, which is enough to power 173,200 homes.

This strong growth is credited partially to the fact that more residents can reasonably invest in the energy source. Over the course of last year, the average price of a solar installation fell 15 percent. Coupled with initiatives like the SREC program, the falling cost of solar is leading to faster and larger returns, helping the country reduce its carbon footprint in the process.



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