New Jersey urged to promote solar energy installations

Solar panels cover the roof of the building supplying energy to the AirTrain at Newark Liberty International Airport. One state lawmaker wants to revive incentives for investment in solar energy collection. (AP file photo)

Solar panels cover the roof of the building supplying energy to the AirTrain at Newark Liberty International Airport. One state lawmaker wants to revive incentives for investment in solar energy collection. (AP file photo)

An environmental group is encouraging greater use of solar energy panels on rooftops in New Jersey.

Some believe the credits homeowners and businesses get for excess power generated by solar panels are a subsidy, said Carli Jensen of Environment New Jersey. But she said the benefits outweigh the costs.

“Some of those benefits include avoided energy costs,” Jensen said during a legislative hearing Tuesday at the Statehouse in Trenton. “So the solar energy that they’re generating means that utilities are going to have to generate less — or purchase less — from fossil fuel fired plants.”

Jensen is urging municipalities to adopt policies for increasing solar collection on government owned buildings to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Assembly Environment Committee chairman Tim Eustace wants the state to consider encouraging greater use of the technology.

“There used to be a program where the state gave us 70 percent incentives that made it possible for me to actually buy my solar panels,” said Eustace, D-Bergen. “Most people can’t afford to buy them. So if we could figure out a way to incentivize it better than we have — there’s just been no money in the budget — so we’re looking at ways that we could possibly make it work.”

Tapping into solar power would help New Jersey meet its goal of providing half the state’s electricity by 2050, Eustace said.

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