The Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University issued a report, titled “Solar Gardens in the Garden State: Community Solar Recommendations for New Jersey.” The proposal is intended to allow customers that reside in rented or multi-tenant buildings, or those who cannot take advantage of solar for other reasons, including shady roofs, to participate in shared solar projects, and enabling further development of clean energy generation in New Jersey. The report is targeted at policymakers in New Jersey and recommends policies for guiding community solar legislation in New Jersey, while recommending that the details and technical specifications be left to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”). The report proposes an initial pilot project stage, implemented through a request for proposal process, that will enable the participants to refine requirements after resolving any problems that arise. Thereafter, full implementation of the community solar program should be approved.
In order to implement community solar, the report proposes that the BPU:
- establish transparent cost-sharing procedures if grid improvements are needed;
- create a simple, standardized permitting process;
- use virtual net metering to credit participating customers with power usage, ultimately transitioning to value of solar rate design;
- establish floor prices for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs);
- limit the size of a solar project to 5 MW;
- encourage development of projects on low value land;
- use on-bill financing to ensure that developers are paid;
- allow small businesses to participate and limit individual subscription of a project to 40 percent of the size;
- require developers to allocate 10 percent of the project to low-income households; and
- create and implement consumer protections.
Community solar projects will be beneficial to New Jersey in several ways. In addition to enabling a greater number of residences to procure clean energy, they can enhance overall system reliability by providing distributed generation in different locations on the electric grid, lower price spikes at peak hours and improve health and the environment. The solar industry has also been an important driver of job growth in New Jersey, and the development of community solar projects can continue that trend.