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New Jersey approves rules for 3-year community solar pilot program

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on Jan. 17 gave final approval to rules for a pilot program that will result in the development of at least 225 MW of community solar projects over three years.

Called for under a broad clean energy bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in May 2018, the three-year community solar energy pilot program will let electric utility customers participate remotely in solar energy projects while receiving a credit on their bills based on the amount of electricity they purchase. Community solar projects allow customers who cannot install solar panels at their residence due to physical or financial barriers to access the resource via the grid.

The rules, issued for comment in August 2018, set the annual capacity limit for community solar projects approved for participation in the pilot program at 75 MW for the first year and at least 75 MW for the second and third years. The pilot will also set aside 40% of the overall program capacity for low- and moderate-income households.

Board President Joseph Fiordaliso said in a statement that, while solar has been "extremely successful" in the Garden State, it has not been accessible to everyone. "The point of this pilot program is to take the first step toward ensuring that we change this dynamic," he said.

The board said interested customers can sign up for a community solar subscription, through which they purchase either an ownership share of the community solar system or a recurring monthly subscription.

Vote Solar and the Coalition for Community Solar Access said in a joint statement on Jan. 17 that the program will not only give more people access to solar power but also lower electricity bills and help create local clean energy jobs.

Information and data gathered during the pilot period will help develop a full-scale program within three years, the board said.