Part II – Possible Death Blow to New Jersey’s Solar Energy Projects!
For such a short discussion, my original posting on this subject went viral. From a death threat and being called a quack PhD (MS and PhD in Chemistry from Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey) to a few moderates and some strong believers that solar may have had its day in NJ, the issue seems far from settled.
It should be known that I have fought for renewable energy since 1997 with I co-founding the National Hydrogen Fund to commercialize hydrogen technologies for the transportation sector. Recently, in conjunction with several waste-to-energy companies, I am associated with a California based a builder, developer and investor of utility scale solar projects. Lately, I was asked to host an international solar EPC company to assist in establishing strategic partnerships with domestic developers. In the last few years alone, I have invested considerable personal resources and time to do my part to get renewable energy on the right track. So whoever thinks Barry Stevens is not behind renewables is somewhat misguided and simple does not know me.
To recall, the premise of the discussion was the possible impact on New Jersey’s SREC program from Gov. Chris Christie’s announced withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (”RGGI”), a cap-and-trade program.
Prior to writing the commentary, I contacted the Governor Christie’s Office with this question. The official word was: “the impact is unknown until New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan (“EMP”) is approved.” Today, I called the Governor’s office to find out when the draft of the EMP would be made publicly. The answer was “we don’t know.”
So, at face value, we can argue and debate to death do us part, but we just don’t know what the impact will be at this time. Some relevant news clips that emerged since his announcement include:
• “Most important for solar customers in New Jersey is to understand that Governor Christie’s decision is not connected to the state’s SREC program. Participation in RGGI does not affect the state’s participation, goals, or support for the SREC market in NJ. Please see our March post describing Christie’s previous endorsement of the SREC market.” http://www.srectrade.com/blog/tag/nj-srec-prices
• “The New Jersey Energy Year 2012 (June 1st 2011 – May 31st 2012) SREC prices have experienced a sharp decline. The precipitous drop in price is due to an expectation of an oversupply of SRECs for New Jersey in the next 12 months. Solar development has quickly outpaced state mandates. New Jersey is second only to California for installed solar capacity and now has over 9,000 statewide solar installations, which equates to 330 Megawatts (MW) of distributed generation. The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently announced that 29 MW of solar was installed in April 2011. This monthly record build will assist New Jersey in meeting and exceeding its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).” http://markets.flettexchange.com/2011/05/16/nj-srec-prices-drop-in-anticipation-of-an-oversupply
• “The state will move away from subsidizing residential solar projects to emphasize commercial installations and encourage the construction of more gas power plants in a revised energy master plan that will be released in the next month, according to two sources who have been briefed on the plan.” http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2011/02/nj_to_shift_priorities_on_sola.html
• “EDISON, NJ-The state’s BPU (“Board of Public Utilities”)president predicts that clean energy and nuclear power regulations in the Garden State will change as the population grows higher.” http://www.globest.com/news/1891_1891/newjersey/308969-1.html
• Pending changes in New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan and the likely impacts in renewable portfolio standards and the electricity grid has made it critical to understand the economic, policy, and green energy implications at the federal and state levels. http://news.rutgers.edu/medrel/news-releases/2011/03/rutgers2013camden-to-20110302
• “What the latest delay (unveiling NJ’s Energy Master Plan) means for the current plan, and just how much it will change, remains uncertain. The plan is eagerly awaited by the state’s rapidly growing solar industry sector, which fears the administration may scale back some of the aggressive targets set by the plan and legislation promoting the technology. http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/11/0318/0128
• “RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses — with no discernible or measurable impact on our environment,” Gov. Christie told reporters at a May 26 press conference announcing the decision.” http://www.thenewamerican.com/tech-mainmenu-30/environment/7689-nj-to-leave-regional-cap-and-trade-scheme
• “New Jersey’s “carbon emissions” are already below the 2020 target rate established by the legislation authorizing the state’s participation in the program. “We’re seeing that the market, and not RGGI, has created incentives to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels,” Gov. Christie noted.” http://www.thenewamerican.com/tech-mainmenu-30/environment/7689-nj-to-leave-regional-cap-and-trade-scheme
• “According to Christie, his efforts to massage development of solar, offshore wind, and natural gas power have had a far greater impact on reducing emissions than RGGI. http://energy.aol.com/2011/05/31/coal-gets-boot-as-new-jersey-exits-rggi
• The Republican governor also pledged that New Jersey would not permit the development of any coal-fueled power plants, and that the state would continue to take steps to promote offshore wind- and solar-energy development as well as construction of natural gas facilities.” http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/burlington_county_times_news/christie-dropping-energy-program/article_628e91ea-7ea7-5ca9-8e08-d3457f35d92b.html?mode=print
This graph New Jersey’s Clean Energy website clearly shows a projected 200% increase in solar installations over a 21 month period from 1/2010 to 10/2011. As of 4/30/2011, solar installations provide over 330.4 MW of installed capacity through 9,181 projects. There are 4,351 projects in the pipeline that can provide an additional 329 MW of electricity. http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/project-activity-reports/installation-summary-by-technology/solar-installation-projects
Furthermore, NJ is poorly suited for efficient solar electrical generation. Atlantic City has a Solar Radiation factor of 4.69 kWh/m 2/day. By comparison, Southwestern cities such as Phoenix Arizona have a much higher rating, and therefore, a more efficient electrical generation of 6.57 kWh/m 2/day, see PVWatts1, http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculators/PVWATTS/version1
Whereas, Atlantic City has a Wind Power rating between 150 and 500 W/m2, Phoenix’s rating is <100 W/m2. From a wind perspective Jersey has a lot to gain by taking advantage of wind energy, especially on the costal regions and offshore. Would be an added attraction for AC – predict the number of rotations a rotor blade makes at any given point in time.
Well there you have it. There are reasons to believe that NJ will continue to set aggressive goals to increase the use of natural gas and renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. Nerveless, there are reasons for concern. Some not directly related to the Governor’s pullout of RGGI. With the abundance of solar projects satisfying the ever increasing RPS requirements, the state may be less in favor of pushing solar in lieu of other energy sources such as wind and nat gas.
To read my other discussions, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/barry-stevens231