News Column

Solar Energy Rebounding in New Jersey

June 13, 2013

Adam Offitzer

Solar panels (file image)
Solar panels (file image)

The New Jersey solar energy market rebounded in the first quarter, after tailing off at the end of 2012 when Superstorm Sandy pushed back a number of installation projects, according to a trade group report.

The report, released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, said installations increased by 33 percent nationwide, accounting for nearly half of all new electric capacity installed in the country.

New Jersey installed 76 megawatts of solar energy in the first quarter, second only to California, which added 408 megawatts. Non- residential installations accounted for 64.7 megawatts of New Jersey's total.

Many of those projects were slated for the end of 2012, but were delayed as a result of Superstorm Sandy.

As for residential installations, growth has been relatively stable over the past 1 1/2 years. There were 11.1 residential megawatts installed in the first quarter, an 11 percent increase from the fourth quarter.

Cory Honeyman, solar analyst at GTM research, said "the fact that New Jersey was able to stay the course ... was fairly encouraging," considering the falling prices of Solar Renewable Energy Credits. Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs, are credits earned by owners of solar panels that can be sold to utility companies.

Honeyman said there remains an "underlying belief that SRECS still hold potential long-term value, so this long-term value translates to lower cost" for installations.

GMT expects "incremental growth" in New Jersey residential installations throughout 2013.

On a national level, residential installations climbed 53 percent for the quarter. Honeyman said this number is skewed, however, since California accounted for half of the residential market share in the nation. New Jersey was a bright spot nationwide, as "one of only a few major state markets that saw growth," Honeyman said.

The pace of growth for residential installations in the nation has been fueled by the increase in third-party financing offered by companies like Solarcity Corp. and Sunrun Inc. for home solar projects. These companies provide "zero-down," "power-purchase" payment plans to make rooftop installations affordable for middle- class homeowners, essentially leasing the panels to customers at low rates while the business gets the benefits of ownership.

Businesses such as SuperGreen Solutions in Englewood sell and install the systems. HoJae Lee, the owner of SuperGreen, said it has been hard to persuade homeowners to make the investment, but commercial customers are interested in the potential long-term value.

"The people that I speak to who already have solar installations done do have concerns about the falling SREC prices," he said. "However, they are realizing that this is a long-term investment, and that it is going to be stabilizing."

Solar & More of Pompton Lakes offers leasing plans and purchasing plans, but owner Tom Ferraro said leasing is increasingly more popular.

"Most people are doing third-party financing now," he said.

Honeyman is optimistic about the future of New Jersey's solar market because of recent PSE&G initiatives. The Board of Public Utilities approved the company's two-part $446 million solar promotion plan for the state.

The $199 million first part of the plan extends 10-year loans to solar developers and the $247 million second part is for solar development to be owned and operated by PSE&G in New Jersey.

This article contains material from Bloomberg News. Email: offitzer@northjersey.com.

(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.





Source: Copyright Record, The; Bergen County, N.J. 2013


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