New Jersey’s largest electric utility this week unveiled a major expansion of its solar program that will build solar farms on brownfields, landfills and large roofs as well as finance projects by home and business owners, The Record reports.
The $883 million proposal by Public Service Electric and Gas could generate 233 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power as many as 233,000 homes. Business Facilities recently ranked New Jersey no. 2 in the nation for Installed Solar Power Capacity.
“Solar energy is important to the sustainable future, and we hear it from our customers time and time again,” said Ralph Izzo, chief executive officer of Newark-based PSEG, the utility’s parent company.
Izzo announced the plans with Gov. Chris Christie at a news conference in Hackensack, where the utility is building a 1-megawatt solar farm on a former industrial site on River Street. Christie lauded the plan, saying it would help New Jersey reach its renewable energy goals, create jobs and protect the environment.
“I’m proud that this is happening without the heavy hand of government involved,” said Christie, surrounded by union laborers. “It’s happening in a partnership between the private sector and government.”
The Solar 4 All program is broken into two components. The first is a $690 million plan to add 136 megawatts of solar power over the next five years by installing panels on landfills, brownfields (former industrial sites), warehouse roofs, large parking lots, schools and municipal facilities.
The second part of the program will provide up to $193 million to finance 97.5 megawatts of electricity. The utility’s 4-year-old solar loan program has issued 736 loans worth $177 million.The loans are offered to PSE&G customers at a rate of 11.85 percent and can be repaid over 10 years with either cash or credits earned by energy generated by the customer’s system.
PSE&G’s announcement comes a week after Christie signed a bill that calls for utility companies to increase the percentage of power derived from solar to more than 4 percent by 2028 from about 2 percent next year.
Christie’s energy master plan calls for 22.4 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2020, down from 30 percent under a previous plan by former Gov. Jon Corzine. Christie also wants 70 percent of the state’s electric use to come from “clean” sources by 2050 and has said that category has to include nuclear, natural gas and hydroelectric facilities. Environmental advocates said none of those are clean energy sources.
PSE&G’s solar farm in Hackensack is expected to be completed by October, said Fletch Creamer Jr., CEO of Creamer Cos., which is building the project.
In the 1800s the Hackensack site was home to a manufactured gas facility — a small factory that roasted coal at high temperatures to create gas that lighted the city’s street lamps. Much of the toxic waste was dumped onsite. PSE&G, which owns the land, spent two years cleaning it up, excavating 300,000 tons of contaminated soil and siphoning more than 20 million gallons of groundwater. Workers had to install metal bracing 30 feet across the excavation site to prevent contamination from getting into the Hackensack River.