PSEG Solar Has Another Outsized Solar Farm in the Works

Tom Johnson | April 18, 2013 | Energy & Environment
Unregulated company plans 80-acre solar facility, largest in Delaware

PSEG Solar Source is expanding its operations, dedicating a new solar farm, the largest ever built in Delaware.

The 80-acre solar farm will produce enough electricity to supply approximately 9,000 homes when the sun is shining at the 15-megawatt facility in Milford, DE, according to the company, an unregulated subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group, the owner of New Jersey’s largest gas and electric utility.

The project is the latest undertaking by the unregulated company to develop large solar farms, mostly outside of the state. It also has built a 2.2-megawatt facility at the Mars Snackfood’s headquarters in Hackettstown, according to a spokesman for the company.

It also reflects the overall company’s efforts to tap into the growing renewable energy market, a sector that some analysts say could adversely affect utilities in the future. The reason: declining customer revenue as cleaner sources of electricity and energy efficiency projects cut into the money generated by traditional sources.

“The Milford Solar Farm helps point the way forward toward a sustainable future for all,’’ said Randall Mehber, president of PSEG Global Holdings and executive vice president, strategy and development.

Besides Delaware, the unregulated company has built a 25-megawatt solar farm in Arizona; a 12-megawatt farm in Ohio; a 15-megawatt farm in Florida; and the facility in Hackettstown.

PSE&G also has been, by far, the utility to most closely align itself with New Jersey’s aggressive goals to promote cleaner sources of energy, such as solar. Public Service Electric & Gas, which deployed 75 megawatts of solar in 2010, ranked third among the country’s utilities, according to the Solar Electric Power Institute.

PSE&G seeks to expand further according to a filing before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The company plans to spend $193 million developing solar energy facilities, as well as another $729 million on another solar program. In total, the plan would put ratepayers on the hook for nearly $1 billion.

The New Jersey Division of Rate Counsels argues that the petitions should be rejected, saying solar developers should bear the administrative costs, rather than ratepayers. It also argued that additional ratepayer subsidies are not needed to promote new solar generation in New Jersey.

Division Director Stephanie Brand questioned why the projects are not undertaken by the unregulated companies, rather than the utilities, which often are guaranteed a profitable rate of return.

The utility’s proposal suggested that the bulk of the projects — 136 megawatts –would be built on landfills, brownfields, and other underutilized properties identified in the state’s Energy Master Plan as priority locations for new grid-supply solar projects.