New Jersey Lawmakers Continue to Pursue Green and Clean Technologies

Tom Johnson | March 25, 2011 | Energy & Environment
Wave power and smart grids are just two of the technologies discussed at Assembly hearing on alternative energy

New Jersey has embraced cleaner ways of generating electricity, such as solar and wind power, but now legislators are looking at other ways to produce energy without increasing global climate change.

Could wave power provide an inexpensive and cleaner way of creating energy? George Ventz of Clean Wave Energy LLC, based in Surf City, believes so. “It is the cheapest way and it is not being harvested,” Ventz said.

The company claims converting wave energy to electricity will cost less than generating an equivalent amount of energy from either wind power or solar collectors,. But the technology has yet to attract much interest except from the U.S. Department of Energy, Ventz told lawmakers earlier this month.

Experts believe there is enough energy in the world’s waves to provide up to 2 trillion watts of electricity, but wave power isn’t feasible in most places, except for the northeastern coast of the U.S.

“We look forward to exploring how New Jersey’s 127-mile coastline could give our state a competitive advantage in catching the wave, a form of energy that has been relatively untapped, while carefully evaluating its environmental impact,” said Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset).

Wave power was just one of the emerging technologies discussed in a hearing before the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee on alternative forms of renewable energy. Experts also touted the smart grid, building the infrastructure for electric cars and hydro power. Chivukula , its chairman, said he was glad to explore new developments and opportunities in the state’s renewable energy infrastructure.

“Technological innovation and the advancement of scientific processes is key to delivering increased energy efficiency and energy savings,” he said.

Consumer electronic devices consume more than half the power in a typical U.S. home. Thirty years ago, the average household had three electric appliances. Today, it’s 23.

Reducing waste and increasing efficiency can help conservation and deliver significant energy and cost savings, according to industry experts. For instance, appliances that are left switched on when not in use account for about 20 percent of energy use in a home.

New Jersey also needs to step up its efforts to develop a smart grid, several people suggested. The term is used to describe digital computer technology for delivering electricity over transmission and distribution lines, while monitoring and controlling its use.

A smart grid will allow the state to more easily integrate intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, into the regional power grid, according to Shibab Kuran, president of Petra Solar, South Plainfield, which manufactures solar panels equipped with smart grid technology. Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) is installing the panels on telephone poles throughout its territory.

Petra’s technology allows utilities to monitor the grid and solar system fluctuations which occur when the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing. It also will likely help the emerging effort to store generated electricity from renewable sources, Kuran said.

According to a U.S. Department of Energy study, modernization of the U.S. power grids with smart grid capabilities would save consumers and businesses between $46 and $117 billion over the next two decades.

NRG Energy pushed lawmakers to enact policies that will help private companies roll out the infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles, which the Princeton-based company is trying to do as a pilot project in Houston, Texas.

Among the policies that were suggested were tax credits for both the charging stations and vehicles and other so-called convenience benefits that would make it more likely consumers would buy plug-in cars, according to Drew Murphy, executive vice president at NRG. One such benefit would be setting aside certain lanes for plug-in vehicles and preferred parking for electric vehicles.

In addition, Murphy urged the committee to keep the charging infrastructure separate from the utility rate base, suggesting lawmakers follow the open markets that led to widespread cell phone competition in the private sector. Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest gas and electric utility, has expressed some interest in building the infrastructure for plug-in vehicles.