Newark: A Top 20 Solar City — You Got a Problem With That?
This month, Solar.com is launching a series of profiles on the hottest solar cities in the US. We’ll take a look at why these cities have been successful at putting solar panels on rooftops and where to look for solar if you’re ever passing through. Visit the Solar.com blog to read all the profiles, including San Jose, California.
Today we travel to the East Coast, to visit one of the less-likely solar leaders, Newark, New Jersey. While better known as the inspiration for The Sopranos and the least-friendly city in the world, this city of about 278,000 residents is surprisingly solar-friendly. In 2016, New Jersey’s dedication to solar earned it a place among the Top 20 solar cities in the Shining Cities report produced by Environment California and The Frontier Group, checking in at #17.
Facts about solar in Newark
- Newark is home to 21 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, enough to power about 4,200 average-sized homes.
- Some of the cities with more people and more sunshine, but less solar energy than Newark are Miami, Fla., Anaheim, Calif., Mesa, Ariz., and Houston, Tex.
- New Jersey’s largest utility, PSE&G, is based in Newark and regularly ranks among the top solar utilities in the country.
- Panasonic Corp., a high-efficiency solar panel manufacturer, has its North America headquarters in Newark. In 2013, Panasonic opened a new corporate office building rated for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) with 234 solar panels on the roof.
What makes Newark a Shining Solar City?
Newark stands out in spite of two factors. (1) In the less-than-perfectly sunny Northeast, Newark has about 30 percent less solar potential than hotspots in California and Arizona. (2) Newark hasn’t demonstrated much city-level solar policy leadership. A Sustainability Action Plan released in 2013 provides a broad statement of support for clean energy but very limited details about how the city can help bring solar energy to more of its residents.
In Newark, it may be that the combination of state and federal incentives are enough to make New Jersey’s biggest city a player on the national stage.
Unlike California, which relies on net metering as the biggest state solar incentive, New Jersey offers Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to solar homeowners. Instead of paying solar generators for each watt they send to the grid, under the SREC program, residents receive credits for their clean energy generation that they then sell to utilities – who are required by the state to purchase a certain percentage of clean energy each year.
If that sounds complicated, it is. But in the end, it can work out to be a great return on investment. If you buy your system outright, you’ll receive the state’s solar tax credit, savings on your energy bill, and income from selling your SRECs to your utility.
In addition to the SREC program, there are a few other incentives to make going solar in New Jersey easy and rewarding. The state waives sales tax on the purchase of solar equipment. And solar panels aren’t included in the assessment value of your home in New Jersey; considering that studies show homebuyers are willing to pay more for solar homes, this is another added benefit.
Since 2008, PSE&G has offered since 2008 a low-cost solar loan program that covers up to 60 percent of the price of installation.
Notable solar installations in Newark
Newark has been focused on solar for a long time. In 2010 the city installed a total of 2.6 MW of solar on five Newark schools.
In 2014, ConEdison Solutions and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey flipped the switch on a 633-kW solar installation at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Other Newark institutions with solar on the roof include:
Given Newark’s placement as a Top 20 solar city for each of the past three years, it’s clear that solar continues to provide value for its residents. And Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has said he wants the city to retain its leadership in the northeast and nationwide.
If you want to join in on the savings and receive free, no-obligation bids on a solar installation for your home, check out the Solar.com online marketplace.