Rooftop Solar Panels - Green in More Ways Than One

A recent article in the Newark Star-Ledger highlighted the influx of solar energy projects in New Jersey and the financial incentives driving those projects.  Notable aspects of the article include:

  • The Board of Public Utilities ("BPU") developed a solar renewable-energy certificate program ("SREC") to create a marketplace for solar energy producers to trade energy with utilities.
  • Commercial installations account for 57 percent of the SRECs, or 84.32 megawatts, with 22 percent of the SRECs being generated by residential installations, and the balance from municipalities and schools.
  • Nearly $3 billion dollars have been granted to qualified applicants under the Section 1603 Payment in Lieu of Tax Credit programs.  Of that, $27 million dollars has been paid for 52 solar projects in New Jersey -- an average of more than a half million dollars for each project
  • In December 2009, Federal Express completed a 2.42 megawatt rooftop solar array at its distribution hub in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
  • In Edison, a food storage warehouse recently installed a system that will provide 45 percent of the plant's energy needs per year.

While time is running short, it is not too late to consider your rooftop for a solar panel installation.  The Stimulus Act requires that the project commence construction in 2010 in order to claim the 30% payment. 

Constructing Solar Panels On Capped Landfills - Can You Turn a Negative into a Positive?

Several South Jersey communities are exploring the feasibility of solar panel projects on land formerly used as landfills. In a time of economic downturn, the notion of “turning lemons into lemonade” can take on many faces. Although the headlines have been dominated recently with health care related issues, energy issues and the “Green” movement appear to have some staying power. While constructing solar panels is believed to be a viable source of alternative energy, obtaining an approval from the state and local governments for such facilities is not without its challenges. Navigating the extensive regulatory landscape governing solar energy is a delicate balance of public and private concerns. The tightening of the credit markets over the past year has diminished the available capital for such projects; however with care and consideration a project may qualify for grants and incentives from state and federal agencies.

The Borough Council of the Borough of National Park (Gloucester County) recently passed a resolution designating a prospective redeveloper of a closed landfill on property formerly utilized for the disposal of demolition material and local household waste. The parcel is the only undeveloped tract of land in National Park Borough.   As noted by the article published in the August 23, 2009 edition of The Gloucester County Times, although the project is in its infancy stages it appears to have the support of the local community.  According to the proposal submitted by Westfield Energy, the prospective redeveloper, the former landfill could eventually house a 30-acre field of solar panels as well as over 130,000 square feet of office and retail space with an increasing focus on environmentally sustainable buildings.  

It is noteworthy that last fall, Governor Corzine unveiled New Jersey’s latest Energy Master Plan which would provide the blueprint for the state’s energy policies for the next decade. If you need a crash course or even a refresher, follow this link and continue to the bottom of the page for an article by Steven Goldenberg, Esq. of Fox Rothschild LLP which was published in the June 2009 edition of the Mercer Business Journal

 

Solar panels present an additional method of reducing a building’s carbon footprint and possibly even generating some much-needed revenue for the property owner or the local government. A similar proposal is in its informal stages in Mullica Township which is also in Gloucester County. There, township officials are pursuing a plan to lease a portion of a former garbage dump so that it can be used for a solar farm. The proposed site is located at the highest point in the township which makes it an attractive location for a solar park due to the significant amount of unimpeded access to the sun. 

 

Among the many considerations that must be given to the proposed development of a solar farm, the interplay between public and private parties and agencies is very important. Whether the developer is a private property owner versus a designated redeveloper or a redeveloper designated by a municipality to redevelop land in a blighted condition is an important factor. Another factor is the extent to which the subject property is environmentally contaminated. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has varying standards for the amount of environmental contaminants permitted to remain in the soil depending upon the type of development taking place above ground. For example, the soil quality for a residential subdivision would be more stringent than the required soil quality for a solar park. Furthermore, the cost of construction is always a consideration, and who bears the cost depends the public versus private nature of the developer. Public/private partnerships have been successful. 

 

There are a whole host of considerations that must be given, but the fact that these projects are even being considered is a plus.   Whether these solar projects ever reach construction and completion remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it presents an opportunity to make some lemonade which hopefully will be tasty, healthy, and maybe even profitable enough for all to benefit.