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State May Start Funding Energy-Storage Projects for Solar and Wind

Tom Johnson | April 10, 2013

Proposal comes at a time when New Jersey is slashing funds for most sources of renewable energy.

For the first time, New Jersey’s clean energy program is proposing that it hand out money to energy-storage projects, which are viewed by many experts as a crucial element in helping technologies like solar and wind become more successful.

In a straw proposal developed in the Office of Clean Energy at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the staff is suggesting that the state allocate between $5 million and $10 million over the next four years for energy storage. The proposal says it may award up to $2.5 million in state fiscal year 2014. Over four years, the total could rise to $10 million.

Because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn't always blow, energy storage is viewed as key to promoting cleaner ways of producing electricity.

Energy storage is still under development. Given the intermittent nature of solar and wind, it is viewed as crucial to making clean energy competitive with conventional technologies like natural gas and coal-fired plants.

The proposal comes at a time when the state is slashing funding for renewable energy, proposing just $7.5 million in the 2014 budget to finance solar, biomass, onshore wind, and water energy.

Nevertheless, the state has aggressive goals to have 22.5 percent of its electricity produced from renewable energy sources by 2020, a target many environmental groups think should be more ambitious.

New Jersey has been a leader in promoting the development of solar installations, ranking only behind California and Arizona in the number of systems it has installed.

The state is also aggressively trying to promote the development of offshore wind, establishing a goal of 1,100 megawatts by 2020. Both goals would be bolstered by the creation of effective energy storage facilities that would make their systems more reliable in providing electricity to the power grid.

The state’s efforts to promote energy storage mirror those goals, although some energy companies question how far the technology has advanced.

The proposal also comes at a time when the state’s clean energy program has suffered from repeated diversion of funds, which have been used to balanced the budget in recent years. Since Gov. Chris Christie has taken office. he and the Legislature have diverted more than $600 million in clean energy funds. Another $150 million is targeted for appropriation in the latest budget proposed by the administration.

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