In a previous post
, I wrote about New Jersey becoming the hottest solar market in the nation. The truth is, the United States in general is becoming one of the hottest solar markets in the world. According to Bloomberg News, "the amount of solar energy capacity installed in the U.S. increased 66 percent in the first quarter of 2011, as panel prices fell and developers took advantage of expiring government incentives."
That being said, New Jersey is arguably the superstar performer in an all-star market. Solar energy installations in the state grew 49 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of this year, according to DEP. So it shouldn't surprise anybody, then, that according to Christopher Baxter at the Statehouse Bureau, "New Jersey hit a new record in June for solar energy installations
and the resulting electric generation capacity compared to any prior month."
Across New Jersey, 520 solar projects totaling more than 40 megawatts of electric capacity were installed in June, the Department of Environmental Protection said. 40 solar-generated megawatts is enough to power roughly 7,000-8,000 homes for an entire year. However, even more exciting is that when including the June numbers, more than 380 megawatts are now generated from 10,086 solar arrays statewide.
New Jersey's great solar news may be even more pleasantly surprising when considering Governor Christie's new "Energy Master Plan" which, according to Baxter, "scaled back the state's goal
to bolster renewable sources like solar energy and put a greater emphasis on new natural gas and nuclear power. Under Christie's plan, 22.5 percent of the state's electricity will be produced from the sun and the wind and other renewable energy sources by 2020, as against a program drafted under former Gov. Jon Corzine, who set a goal of 30 percent."
Governor Christie calls the plan "realistic and achievable." Renewable energy advocates disagree, saying they fear the new policy will undercut New Jersey's burgeoning solar energy market and the jobs it has created. However, according to Baxter, "industry insiders disagree on the plan's significance. Some describe the draft as a bad sign for the solar market, but others say scaled-back emphasis on the solar industry will not halt the market's growth."
As renewable energy becomes increasingly politicized and intermingled with the world of high finance, one can usually trust industry insiders over just about anybody else regarding the future of the market.
However, also part of Christie's new plan is to put greater emphasis on solar subsidies for large, commercial projects rather than residential projects. I personally think residential solar projects should continue to receive great emphasis, especially considering that the cost of installing solar power is falling, thanks to lower costs for component parts and more efficient panel production and installation, according to Bloomberg News. In the first quarter alone, according to Bloomberg, prices of solar panels fell about 7 percent. Both residential and commercial solar projects should be greatly emphasized as probably the best option for New Jersey as it tries to reduce its fossil fuel consumption.