When you think of states with a long-term commitment to solar energy, most people tend to think of sunshine, renewable-friendly politics, and expensive conventionally-produced electricity. States like California, Arizona, and Nevada come to mind. It can be sunny and hot in that part of the country, and that makes for lots of air-conditioning (and other power-consuming technologies), steep electric bills, and great solar production.
The dark horse in the great solar race though, is New Jersey. Oh yes. The state known for mobsters and MTV misfits has been absolutely on fire when it comes to solar deployment. Let’s put up some numbers:
- New Jersey is second in the nation in both installed solar capacity and number of installations; only California has more. It’s now home to more than 15,000 solar electric systems providing more than 680 megawatts of capacity. That’s enough to power more than 135,000 homes.
- In January 2012 alone, NJ businesses and homeowners installed more than 80 megawatts of solar – in one month. That’s more than double what was installed in Florida (ahem, the Sunshine State) in all of 2011.
- Even under conservative projections, the Garden Sate will have well over 4,000 megawatts of installed solar by 2026. While this may not surpass California’s 12,000 megawatt goal, New Jersey’s is written into state law, and of course you could easily fit New Jersey within a number of California’s 52 counties.
What’s the state doing to promote this sort of explosive growth of solar power? Simply put, the state has the most aggressive solar-specific targets in the nation. Unlike California’s largely technologically-neutral renewable portfolio standard, NJ has recognized the specific benefits of distributed commercial solar and carved out exact solar targets for utilities. State policymakers also implemented the nation’s most robust renewable trading mechanism, whereby solar owners choose when and how to sell the renewable aspects of their solar production, while still watching their electric bills melt away.
In fact, solar is sprouting so rapidly that the state’s extremely aggressive mandates are being exceeded through 2013, at least. This has led many industry observers to question whether the state’s blistering pace of solar installation can continue, and lawmakers in Trenton to actually consider accelerating the state’s solar targets. One thing is clear: New Jersey is – and will continue to be – a preeminent leader in building our clean energy future. Put away the spray tan, Jersey boys and girls, commercial solar is shining in the Garden State.