Trenton – In an effort to expand the use of renewable energy across New Jersey, the Senate today approved two bills sponsored by Senator Bob Smith and Senator Christopher Bateman, which would increase the capacity for solar energy development throughout the state.
“By 2050, we as a state have big goals to achieve in order to become a carbon-neutral state,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “It is imperative that we take steps to greatly expand our use of clean energy power sources. The use of both utility-scale solar energy and dual-use solar energy projects will keep us on track for our long-term goals, ensuring the successful transition to renewable energy sources.”
The first bill, S-2605, would establish the successor program to the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program, which would be known as the ‘SREC-II’ program, within the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). The SREC-II program would distribute solar renewable certificates to solar power facilities that qualify and include a competitive solicitation process for certain large-scale solar power facilities.
“Solar energy will play an increasingly crucial role in the state’s transition to renewable power and away from fossil fuels and the resultant problems and pollutants,” said Senator Bateman (R-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “These programs will contribute a dramatic increase in renewable energy production as New Jersey establishes the standard for solar and sustainable power in the nation. Today’s action delivers an emphatic message that the Garden State is fully committed to clean, renewable and reliable power from the sun.”
The second bill, S-3484, would direct the BPU and the Department of Agriculture to establish a “Dual-Use Solar Energy Pilot Program” to permit the construction, installation, and operation of dual-use solar energy projects on unpreserved farmland, while maintaining the affected land in active agricultural or horticultural use. Under the program, owners would be able to construct a dual-use solar energy project that produces a maximum of 10 megawatts of electricity on their land while continuing to receive farmland assessment.
Under the bill, a dual-use solar energy project would be defined as energy generation facilities, structures, and equipment for the production of electric power from solar photovoltaic panels located on unpreserved farmland in agricultural or horticultural production that ensures the continued simultaneous use of the land below and adjacent to the panels for agricultural or horticultural production. Energy generated from dual-use projects would not be considered an agricultural or horticultural product, and any income from the power sold from the project would not be considered income for the purposes of eligibility for farmland assessment.
In order to be eligible for the pilot program, landowners proposing a dual-use solar energy project must submit an application to the BPU, who would then consult with the Department of Agriculture. The pilot program would last for a duration of three years and authorize up to 200 megawatts of power from dual-use solar facilities. After the three years, the BPU would be authorized to extend the program for a maximum of two additional 12-month periods and increase the overall power limit of the program by 50 megawatts for each extension. Upon expiration of the pilot program, the BPU would be required to adopt rules converting the pilot program into a permanent program as part of the BPU’s successor solar incentive program.
According to the 2019 Energy Master Plan, New Jersey’s goal is to secure 50 percent of the State’s electricity supply from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050, while also being the most cost-effective for consumers. Both bills would help put the state on track to achieve this goal.
The bills were released from the Senate by votes of 25-11 and 36-0, respectively, and sent to the Governor for final approval.