" /> How New Jersey is achieving equitable climate action through community solar

How New Jersey is achieving equitable climate action through community solar

By Amanda Colombo and Ellen Barrett

Last year, all eyes were on the state of New Jersey as they launched their Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. A program our PowerMarket team was and continues to be particularly excited about. That’s because for the first time ever, New Jersey residents have the opportunity to take part in community solar.

But this work did not just start last year. Over the past 20 years, the state has worked to promote the prosperity of New Jerseyans through an array of clean energy orders and acts. These efforts were the precursors that led to the passing of the state’s Clean Energy Act in 2018.

Under the Clean Energy Act, thirty-five(35%) percent of energy sold in New Jersey must come from renewable energy sources by 2025 and this percentage is required to increase to 50% by 2030. This act is what prompted the New Jersey Board of Public Utility (NJBPU) to create the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program and allow the development of 45 community solar projects in the state.

What is community solar you might ask? Instead of installing solar panels on your roof, you take part in a larger solar array constructed in your community from which you and your neighbors all benefit from the clean energy that is generated. Because no roof or upfront costs are necessary to join, community solar provides a fair and just way for all community members to participate in the clean energy revolution. Once enrolled, community solar credits (credits that represent the dollar equivalent of your portion of the community solar asset) will show up on and reduce your monthly electricity bills.

Community solar supports the deployment of renewable energy while allowing more people to take part in the clean energy revolution. However, when developing the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program, the NJBPU went a step further to ensure that its public policy objectives were met in the implementation of this program. In looking at the evaluation criteria as set forth in the program application, it was clear that the state wanted to make sure that the benefits of these community solar projects went principally to low- and moderate-income (LMI) households. Further, the criteria indicated that projects that were sited on large rooftops and brownfields would be graded higher than those on greenfields. Uniquely, the NJBPU also encouraged the engagement of community stakeholders where these projects would be located. They sought project applications that included letters of support from municipal, affordable housing, and local non-profits. The 45 community solar projects awarded in the first year of this pilot program represent the realization of these policy goals.

PowerMarket is proud to partner with Hartz Solar and Solar Energy Systems as they were awarded 4 of these projects. These New Jersey businesses are being cheered on by the local community as they develop community solar projects, lead solar installation training in Newark, and ensure that the majority of their community solar benefits go to LMI households. These projects will provide clean energy to the local electric grid while directly supporting all New Jerseyans along the way. PowerMarket is thrilled to bring these projects to life and support New Jersey as it works to achieve its clean energy goals. The best part about it is you can participate too. If you would like to join a New Jersey community solar project, please go to PowerMarket's online marketplace to learn more.

See below to learn more:

“Community Solar.” New Jersey's Clean Energy Program, NJ BPU

“New Jersey’s Clean Energy Picture.” NJDEP-Air Quality, Energy & Sustainability, State of New Jersey, 3 June 2020

Peretzman, Peter. “NJBPU Awards More than 75 MW of Community Solar Projects to 45 Projects in Low- to Moderate-Income Communities.” The State of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities | Newsroom & Public Notices, State of New Jersey, 20 Dec. 2019.

Peretzman, Peter. “NJBPU Receives 252 Applications for Year One of Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.” The State of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities | Newsroom& Public Notices, State of New Jersey, 26 Sept. 2019.