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Why is solar good for the environment?

During operation, solar panels generate emissions-free energy by capturing and converting sunlight to either heat or electricity.   In contrast, energy that is generated from the combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other air pollutants into the atmosphere.  Other nonrenewable energy technology includes nuclear fission that is carbon-free but produces radioactive waste during energy conversion.  The waste must be properly disposed and stored and creates additional environmental complications.  In addition, there have been catastrophic disasters related to nuclear power generation, the latest being the 2011 Fukushima event. It is not hard to see why more energy derived from renewable and clean sources like solar is good for the environment.

  
Are there any environmental drawbacks to solar?

If not sited on already impervious surfaces (rooftop, parking lot, utility pole, etc.) the land use impact of a solar installation can be significant.  Five acres of land per megawatt of solar is the generally accepted figure for estimating how much land will be consumed to accommodate a given solar project.  If the proper sites are chosen for solar installations such as rooftops, landfills, and brownfields, then this issue is minimized.  However, if open space or farmland is chosen the land use implications are far greater.


How did solar installations become so prevalent in NJ?

How do SREC’s work?

A Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) represents the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system with one SREC issued for each 1,000 kilowatt-hour (kWh) generated.  SRECs are then sold or traded, separately from the sale of power, providing solar system owners with a source of revenue to help offset the cost of installation.  Electricity suppliers in New Jersey must meet solar RPS requirements through purchase of SREC’s or pay a Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP).  By 2028, the solar RPS requires5 suppliers/ providers serving retail customers to procure at least 4.1% of the electricity it sells from solar electric power generators in the State, which is estimated to be 4,038 gigawatt-hour (GWh) of solar power.6  The total installed solar capacity needed to fulfill the solar RPS target would be approximately 3,423 MW.7 

For more information about SREC’s please visit the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy website here:  http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/programs/solar-renewable-energy-certificates-srec/new-jersey-solar-renewable-energy

What is DEP-SAGE doing to encourage properly sited solar?

As discussed earlier, there are numerous environmental benefits to solar.  Those benefits can be compromised if solar is not properly sited and consumes precious acres of open space or farmland.  It is important to the DEP and SAGE that solar is encouraged to be sited on underutilized lands like brownfields and landfills and impervious surfaces like building rooftops.  For more information about DEP’s preferences for siting solar, please read our Solar Siting Analysis.

DEP-SAGE staff is currently working with New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) Office of Clean Energy staff to implement the Solar Act (P.L.2012, c. 24) that was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie on July 23, 2012.  Subsection t of the law directs the BPU to work with the DEP to create a certification program for brownfields, properly closed landfills, and areas of historic fill.  Once certified, these sites are deemed “connected to the distribution system” for the purposes of SREC eligibility.  SAGE staff has worked with BPU staff to create an application form for certification under subsection t of the law.  Once that application is finalized and publicly released, DEP will again work with BPU staff to assess the applications for certification as they are submitted.  More information on this process as it becomes finalized will be posted here.

The Solar Bill also directs the BPU to work with the DEP to create an incentive program to cover the increased costs associated with siting a solar project on a brownfield, properly closed landfill, or area of historic fill.  SAGE staff will continue to work closely with BPU staff to come up with an incentive program that is appropriate, effective and timely.  More information about the incentive program as it becomes finalized will be posted here.

We also continue to answer questions from the public regarding solar and its environmental impacts – both positive and negative.  SAGE is continually learning more about this technology as it evolves and is passing that knowledge on to interested parties.  If you have any questions about solar that you think we might be able to answer, please do not hesitate to contact our office and we will be happy to speak with you.

Aside from SREC’s, what other incentives are available for solar in NJ?

To keep up to date on NJ state incentives for solar please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency here:  http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?re=0&ee=0&spv=0&st=0&srp=1&state=NJ

To keep up to date on federal incentives for solar please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency here:  http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?State=US&ee=0&re=0

2New Jersey Clean Energy Program, Solar installation projects; available at http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/project-activity-reports/installation-summary-by-technology/solar-installation-projects
3New Jersey Clean Energy Program, SREC registration program; available at http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/programs/solar-renewable-energy-certificates-srec/new-jersey-solar-renewable-energy
4Net Metering and Interconnection of Class I Renewable Energy Facilities in New Jersey; available at http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/programs/net-metering-and-interconnection
5Revisions to the Solar Energy Advancement and Fair Competition Act was passed by the legislature (S1925) and signed into law (P.L. 2012, c.2424) on July 23, 2012; final draft available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/PL12/24_.PDF
6This estimation is made using PJM’s 2013 load forecast for New Jersey EDC territories for calendar year 2028, aggregating load (98,490 GWh), and applying 4.1%.
7This performance calculation is made using National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) PV Watts version 2 and assumes the PV system is a fixed-tilt array type facing south located in Trenton, NJ with the default 0.77 DC to AC Derate Factor.  See http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/pvwatts/version2.html for more information. 

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Last Updated: June 28, 2013