Why Not Tier Solar Incentives to Encourage Advantageous Locations?
August 24th, 2011 by Chris Sturm
In testimony at today’s Energy Master Plan hearing, New Jersey Future highlighted ways in which the Board of Public Utilities might fine-tune the solar subsidies offered by the state.
Why not offer larger subsidies to solar installations that are located consistent with other state policy objectives, including not only brownfields and landfills, but also other impervious surfaces, such as rooftops and parking structures, that have few or no negative impacts on land preservation or redevelopment potential? In an industry driven by public-sector incentives, a tiered system could encourage more projects in the most advantageous locations.
While we expect solar facilities to continue to be sited on some combination of ground and rooftop, research done by New Jersey Future graduate student intern Jed Drolet suggests that there is likely to be more than enough rooftop space to meet the state’s long-term goals. Jed approached this question in two ways: First, he estimated the square footage of rooftop needed to meet the state’s solar development goals for 2026 and arrived at a figure of 327 million square feet — a fraction of the state’s total impervious surfaces, estimated at 22 billion square feet. Second, he looked at a national study that examined the solar output capacity of New Jersey’s commercial and residential rooftops, and found a total rooftop potential for New Jersey of over 9,000 mW — more than double the state’s goal for 2026.
Although both approaches apply assumptions across a broad area without detailed analysis, they suggest a great deal of additional potential for solar on rooftops. In other words, on the solar energy front, New Jersey is well-positioned to take advantage of being the nation’s most developed state.