At one time, New Jersey promoted large grid-supply solar projects as a cleaner way of producing electricity, a top priority of the state’s Energy Master Plan.
But then the Energy Master Plan changed and the solar market crashed.
That led policymakers to change the law and regulations, making it more difficult for developers to move ahead with grid-supply projects -- arrays that shunt electricity directly into the regional power grid -- especially those located on farmland.
The rationale behind the changes involved fears that if too many grid-supply projects were developed, it would swamp an already overbuilt solar market, further drying up investment in the sector. New Jersey has seen the number of solar installations fall to just 8 megawatts a month, a far cry from the more than 80 megawatts that were installed at the height of the solar boom.
It is too soon to determine whether the changes will right the sector, but they have had a huge impact on the solar-grid developers, who last month filed a half-billion-dollar lawsuit against the state, arguing that the new rules have destroyed their ability to finance and complete their projects. The say they already have instead $43 million in developing those initiatives, which are now in limbo. The state has declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
The prospect of developing large solar projects on farmland is an issue that is divisive to both players in the solar sector and environmental groups, many of which agree with the Christie administration’s policies to steer grid-supply projects to brownfields and abandoned landfills instead.
When the state ordered the grid-supply projects to be subject to further review, 57 proposals were submitted to the state Board of Public Utilities, representing 654 megawatts of solar capacity. Only three, so far, have been approved.
Here is a list of the developers represented by the trade association that filed the lawsuit against the state:
The developer has 10 projects that would have developed 185.5 megawatts of new solar capacity affected by the changes. It has invested $24 million in the projects, which include two in Pemberton Township, and others in North Hanover, Kingwood, Freehold, Lumberton Township, Raritan Township, Florence, Franklin, and Greenwich Township.
It had planned to build a 23.9-megawatt project in Washington Township in Warren County. The developer has invested $549,00 in the project, according to the lawsuit.
Its proposal called for a 12.5-megawatt project to be built in Upper Deerfield Township. Its investment to date has been $2 million.
The project involves building a 10-megawatt solar system in Flemington. The developer had invested $2.7 million before the project stalled because of the new regulations.
A 9.7992-megawatt project in Raritan Township, where the developer has spent slightly over $2 million.
The company had wanted to build an 8.6-megawatt project in Springfield Township and has spent $4.3 million to make its project happen.
The developer was hoping to build an 8.2-megawatt project in Broadway, where it had invested $3.4 million.
The Pittsgrove project involves building a 2.3-megawatt facility, where the developer has invested $1.6 million.
The developer has invested $2.4 million toward a 1.7-megawatt project in Manalapan.