The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has approved 164 MW of new community solar projects, with all of that capacity aimed at serving low-to-moderate-income (LMI) households.
Regulators also said that the state will transition the two-year-old pilot community solar program to permanent status. The decision to move to a permanent program now rather than wait for a third year of the pilot to commence was driven by the pilot’s success so far.
The community solar program is administered by New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program. It provides access to solar energy through a subscription-based model.
Regulators awarded 78 MW across 45 projects during the pilot program’s first year, exceeding a 75 MW goal. While the pilot required that at least 40% of all approved projects reserve at least 51% of their capacity for low- and middle-income households, all of the approved renewable energy projects met that goal.
Year two of the pilot program doubled the amount of capacity, with the 150 MW available. It carried the same carve-out for low- and middle-income customers. The program was modified as regulators looked to reduce time and costs for developers to enroll customers.
Scott Elias, senior manager of state affairs, mid-Atlantic for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said that the trade group is working with the state to develop a program that adds at least 150 MW of solar energy capacity each year.
“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,” Elias said in a statement. He said that regulatory 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.”