The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) approved 105 applications to participate in the second year of the state’s Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.
The projects represent almost 165 MW of solar energy capacity, enough to power an estimated 33,000 homes. All of the approved awards will serve low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities.
“Our Community Solar Pilot Program is a national model for clean energy equity and environmental justice,” Murphy said. “This program not only makes solar available to those in historically underserved communities but also will spur economic growth and create career opportunities for a diverse, more inclusive workforce. Community solar is a key pillar in our commitment to transition New Jersey away from harmful emissions and towards 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”
Community solar projects offer subscribers the opportunity to invest in the benefits of solar without having it on site.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished in just two years of our Community Solar Pilot Program,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, NJBPU president. “Community Solar is a critical component of our solar programs in making sure that the clean energy and cost savings of solar are available to everyone. It is especially important that these benefits are available to environmental justice and low-income communities when they have been underserved for so long. I look forward to making our successful pilot program into a permanent program.”
With community solar, LMI households will be able to participate in a more equitable solar market through projects located within their electric public utility’s distribution territory.
The approved projects will all allocate at least 51% of their capacity to low- and moderate-income participants. They will all be located on landfills, brownfields or rooftops. The approved project development applicants include government entities and private developers.
“We are pleased that every one of the 105 approved community solar projects in New Jersey will provide low-to-moderate-income communities with clean, affordable energy,” said Scott Elias, senior manager of staff affairs, mid-Atlantic, for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Today’s changes to the community solar program, including improvements to the low and moderate-income subscriber verification rules, are another positive step in improving access to the benefits of clean electricity for lower-income communities and communities of color. This announcement is a milestone in the Murphy administration’s effort to build a more equitable and inclusive clean energy future.”
The NJBPU received 412 applications, representing almost 804 MW. Under the NJBPU’s review and approval process, applications were first reviewed for administrative completeness, then scored by an evaluation committee. Local installer Solar Landscape was approved for 46 projects totaling almost 51 MW.
“Together, we are making clean energy history by opening access to solar power to everyone in New Jersey — especially our low- to moderate-income families,” said Shaun Keegan, Solar Landscape co-founder and CEO. “We are pleased to build on the success of our existing community solar projects and I’m grateful for the continued collaboration with our partners in the commercial real estate, non-profit and government sectors. Thanks to community solar, we can continue to transition away from fossil fuels through clean energy and make it more affordable at the same time.”
Earlier this month, Fiordaliso announced that the Board would be taking steps aimed at making the Community Solar Pilot Program permanent. Staff will be organizing a stakeholder process to discuss the design of the permanent program.
Staff anticipates that this stakeholder process will begin early next year. This process will build upon comments received in response to the Solar Successor Program Straw Proposal in April and May 2021. There will not be a third year of the pilot program, but the NJBPU will move directly into the permanent program which is anticipated to be up and running next year.
In year one, the board received a total of 252 applications representing more than 650 MW of total capacity and approved 45 applications providing almost 78 MW in solar energy capacity. The community solar program is a key component of Gov. Phil Murphy’s clean energy agenda aimed at achieving 100% clean energy by 2050.