States all around the country are attempting to hit ambitious energy goals. In 2019, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) launched a community solar pilot program, which it will extend into a second year. The program is part of the states’ plan of producing all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. It also ensures that low to moderate-income families can benefit from clean energy.
The community solar pilot program extends to commercial and residential consumers, offering them an opportunity to partake in solar energy. Typically, a personal rooftop solar panel would be required, but community solar pulls energy from a separate farm. To participate, residential and commercial customers subscribe to an agreement. As part of that agreement, they purchase electricity generated by the solar installation and receive a discount on their utility bills.
According to the Clean Energy Act of 2018, the community solar pilot program is required to extend solar power to low to middle-income customers. It also guarantees that Environmental Justice Communities can take advantage of renewable resources. The BPU established the pilot program for a three-year run. Over that time, community solar projects generating at least 75 megawatts per year will be approved.
The program was supported by local solar developers. Within the first year, BPU received 252 applications, 45 of which were approved in December 2019. The total expected generation from those projects was 78-megawatts per year. All of the approved projects also set aside more than half of its allotted space for low to middle-income customers. Common among the projects is that they included plans for installations built on brownfields and commercial rooftops.
After a public stakeholder webinar on July 27, 2020, BPU identified key components that required retooling for the second year. Among the voices heard during the meeting were local solar developers that confirmed interest in a continuation of the pilot program.
At the meeting, BPU stated that the second year’s applications will be accepted starting the fall of 2020.