Solar markets vary rapidly from state to state in the nation, and there is so much information that it can be hard to keep track of solar development on your own. This is why this article gathered the things that should be known about solar companies in New Jersey.
Solar power in New Jersey has grown significantly over the past few years, making it one of the top 10 solar states over the past 5 years in the USA. The state solar market continues strong growth driven by its energy market, net-metering, Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), solar tax credit and exemptions, and the SRECs program.
The Garden State has enough installed capacity to power over 250 thousand homes.
Therefore, here you will find all the rules, incentives, and information that must be known about installers in case you are considering going into solar in the state too.
Things You Should Know About Solar in NJ
New Jersey has one of the most ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in the country which states that 35% of the energy sold in New Jersey has to come from clean energy sources by 2025, and 50% by 2030.
A solar carve-out requires utility companies to generate a certain amount of power out of solar generation, and New Jerseys RPS includes a solar specific carve-out of 5.1% by 2021.
This is why New Jersey offers many incentives to New Jerseyans for transitioning into renewable energies.
Solar Photovoltaic Applications
- Distributed Generation / Behind the meter: These solar systems are relatively small and are mounted on residential and commercial facilities, in-ground or rooftop structures. They are primarily used to cover the electric demand of the facility they are mounted on. A typical residential solar PV system is around 5kW and produces about 6.000kWh of electricity per year. While a typical commercial application is around 25kW and produces around 30.000kWh of electricity per year.
- Utility / Grid supply Applications: Utility solar systems send electricity generated directly into the grid; there is no on-site destination for the electricity been produced. In New Jersey, grid-supplied solar systems are typically ground-based arrays or groups of panels greater than 1MW.
At present, in New Jersey, BTM has 2,556 MW of installed capacity, whereas grid-scale supply has 695 MW.
NJ Board of Public Utilities
The Board of Public Utilities is the state agency that oversees the regulated utilities. This board ensures safe, adequate and proper utility services at reasonable rates for the customer in New Jersey.
Through its monthly published data of solar activity reports, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), developed the following interactive summary of solar PV installations in New Jersey’s counties. In which you can check the breakdown of each county on solar energy installation type.
Solar Incentives in New Jersey (NJ)
The deregulated energy market, high electric rates, excellent solar policies, and incentives make New Jersey one of the top states to invest in a solar rooftop system.
The following incentives are available in New Jersey for solar installations:
Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)
When you install a solar system at home, you are eligible for the New Jersey Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program. This is an incentive that grants a tradable certificate to system owners for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of solar energy production.
To meet the solar carve-out, utilities must obtain SRECs to guarantee that a certain percentage of the energy they sold is specifically from solar generation. Creating in New Jersey a huge market for SRECs, currently, they can be sold for 220$.
For instance, a 5kW system will generate around 6 SRECs a year, earning you around $1,320. At present (Q1 of 2020), the state’s energy electricity from solar is around 4.66% according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.
Transition Solar Renewable Energy Credits (TRECs)
Since 2018, in the Clean Energy Act, BPU stated that the program will evolve into another solar incentive once the solar energy generation fulfills 5.1% of state retail electricity sales. This incentive has yet to be created, but the BPU created a proposal program for transition solar renewable energy credits (TREC).
TREC is similar to the SREC program, but it will be worth less and it will be split into 4 levels that will determine which solar project will receive a certain percentage of the TREC value.
TREC is still a proposal, but the arguments to transition from the current SREC program are market volatility and to reduce the cost for ratepayers, since the SRECs are funded through increases in electricity rates.
Net metering enables customers to receive the full retail value of the electricity for the energy production of your solar system above the energy consumption of your home.
When your electricity production exceeds usage, the utility meter spins and provides the owner with credit for the excess energy been pumped from your home to the utility grid.
This credit offsets the cost of buying power from the utility when you need it (night time, for example), and at the end of 12 months, you will be compensated for any credits that you have not used.
Federal Renewable Energy Tax credit, and Tax Exemptions.
Anyone in the USA who installs a rooftop solar panel system is eligible for the Federal Renewable Energy Tax credit, often referred to as, Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
Qualifying for the ITC translates in that 26 percent of the entire cost of the rooftop solar system can be claimed on your federal tax return. Meaning that if you spend $10,000 on your system, you owe $2,600 less in taxes.
The federal ITC was originally established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the program has had several extensions throughout the years, been the latest in 2016 for a 5-year period. This last extension steps down the percentage of the price of your system covered by the ITC by each passing year. Currently sitting at 26%, and finally stepping down to 10% in 2022.
Apart from the ITC, New Jersey has 2 more solar tax exemptions. The solar energy sales tax exemption, allowing you to buy tax-free solar energy equipment; and property tax exemption which deducts the difference between the total assessed value of the property before and after the renewable energy system has been installed.
Loans, Lease and PPAs
When a solar system is installed in a home of New Jersey, there are several payment solutions or solar plans to help you with the decision.
- Solar Purchase: In which you simply buy the solar system upfront. This one makes you eligible for all the incentives that have been discussed previously, as you are the owner of the system.
- Solar Loan: Again, you purchase your solar system, but with a monthly paid loan given to the installer, the utility or a specialized solar finance company. You are still the owner of the system, making you eligible for the incentives.
- Solar Lease: A contract in which the company leases the panels installed at your home for a fixed monthly payment. In this mode, the company remains the owner of the system, therefore, the owner does not get to claim tax incentives nor SRECs, but can avoid the upfront cost of the installation.
- Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): Pretty much similar to a Solar Lease but with a flexible payment in $/MWh. You only pay if the unit produces energy.
Finding A Solar Installer That’s Right For You
Many sites can help compile a list of prospective contractors.
For example, New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program (NJCEP) offers an online list with over a hundred of state-approved commercial and residential installers for you to start looking at.
Assemble a list of potential installers based on experience. Ask yourself: how many systems have the contractor installed; license, check the accreditation of the company through county government, NABCEP or BBB accreditation; and of course, price, asking for at least 3 quotations is always a recommended practice.
Know what you want, compare bids based on include hardware, installation cost, utility connection, permits, and warranty included. A bid for a ground-mounted system is not the same as a rooftop system, the price will vary but the warranty as NJCEP requires needs to cover the system for at least a five-year warranty.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself against a bad experience is to educate yourself. Ask friends and family, read reviews, talk to the companies. Online review sites make it easy to tell at a glance if a company is great or awful, and you can google companies to make sure they are reputable, have the correct certifications and are not facing any legal troubles.
That goes beyond just knowing about the company. It’s a good idea to at least be familiar with solar system components and terms. Here’s a quick primer:
- Kilowatt-hour, or kWh, is the unit that measures how much energy you are using.
- Watts is the measurement of how much energy a system can produce.
- Panels are the physical devices that take light energy from the sun and convert it to DC
- Inverters turn that DC into AC, which is the type of electricity your house needs
- Wires and Cables transmit that power from panel, to inverter, to your home
- Disconnects, both AC and DC, stop the power from reaching a device
Get Multiple Opinions
Armed with knowledge, make sure to get multiple quotes. Different companies not only may offer better prices, they may choose to approach the installation differently giving you a choice of arrays. That way you can pick one that best suits your needs when it comes to how much you want to spend, what types of panels you want to use, or even the aesthetics of the installation.
Look For A Relationship, Not A Sale
Make sure the installer guarantees their work with warranties, offers the option of buying long term maintenance or other perks, and make sure you feel comfortable talking with them. A pushy salesman might talk fast and sound good, but that doesn’t make for a good long term relationship. With tens of thousands of dollars changing hands and the fact that it concerns your home, your livelihood, you want someone you can build long term trust with.
In short, price is not always the best factor when choosing a company. Since this is an addition to your home, something that costs a lot of money and adds a lot of value, and will absolutely make your home more marketable when it comes time to sell, don’t be afraid to take time and weigh all your options. ROI might be an easy thing to calculate on paper, finding out how much money you’ll make over 15 years is a simple math problem, but it’s impossible to know what changes might happen in your life 5 years from now. You’ll want assurance that your company, and their product, will still be supporting you when that time comes.
Best Solar Companies in NJ: Top Picks
Green Power Energy Review
If you’re looking for a custom-built system, Green Power Energy is the best in the state. They offer their expertise to design and install high-performance solar systems, through the complete EPC process.
GPE has been around since 2009 and their consultants’ team is the best rated on several solar review pages, averaging 5/5 stars. They have partnerships with Panasonic, LG and are certified installers for Tesla’s Powerwall. They count with a NABCEP certificate and have a BBB, A+ grade.
With experience in residential, commercial and agricultural solar projects, Green Power is capable of all scopes of work, offering an industry-leading 25-year warranty on all labor, as well on several of their products.
Evoke Solar Review
Evoke Solar distinct itself for being the top-rated certified installer of New Jersey, of the nationwide giant manufacture SunPower.
This company opened in 2013 and currently operates in 3 different states. They take care of everything from a free initial analysis, permitting, design, engineering, interconnection with the utility, installation, rebate applications and post installations permit approvals.
They have design ground and rooftop projects for households, commercial and agricultural projects. Their NABCEP certified designers and installers held the highest standards of the industry. And their elite dealer partnership with SunPower assures you the high-quality products for the best prices.
Impact Solar Review
Impact Solar LLC was established in 2015, its customer-focused service ranked them in almost every top solar companies review.
The complete installation project is made by a certified NABCEP installer and a licensed electrician to ensure NEC and local compliance. Also, its 10-year workmanship and leak-proof warranty with 24/7 monitoring, distinct their bids from the rest. The company is certified by BBB with an A+ rating.
Trinity Solar Review
Trinity Solar is a national installer founded in 1994, with over 1500 employees that operate across 8 states.
They have installed over 35.000kW only in New Jersey, making them one of the most experienced companies in the state. Trinity’s specialized departments handle every aspect of the solar project including design, permitting, interconnection, installation, SREC brokering, and finance.
With over 50.000 residential installations, they accredited with NABCEP certificate, silver LG pro partnership, and BBB rating of A¡.
Solar Me Review
Solar Me is the go-to company for residential and local solar system projects in New Jersey.
With a small customer-focused team, Solar Me stands out in every review that has been made about them. Been around since 2014, they have serviced over 250 projects, making them experienced enough for any home solar system.
Their projects are turnkey guaranteed, offering high-quality hardware solutions at competitive prices, as they take care of all permits and paperwork. Solar Me is recognized by NABCEP with a gold standard for solar installers, and with a BBB rating of A+.
Momentum Solar Review
One of the fastest growing solar companies, and the only one on this list that calls Jersey it’s home, Momentum has an A+ rating from the BBB. They also donate to local nonprofits, including Jersey based cancer charity the Beauty Foundation. They also offer free installation, good insurance and tree removal.
The technological superstar car company is also a major producer of solar panels, installations and batteries. Although they tend to run higher per kW in price, they do offer an impressive number of configurations and styles, including some very premium options like solar roofing (a system where the tiles on your roof are the solar components, no extra hardware or visable panels)
One of the highest rated by users, and consistently rated among the top 10 nationwide. SunPower is another large player in the market, with their focus is on having the best panels out there, boasting some of the highest efficiencies and longest warranties. However their financing options are not as robust as others, and the efficiency comes at a high price.
The second largest installer, Vivant prides itself in the systems, like full home energy monitoring that integrates with their home security package and integration with Amazon Echo. They also offer long term maintenance, and good rates on loans.
It’s the largest installer in the US, and able to offer some great rates. However as with any large company it can feel a bit impersonal, and local installers vary wildly from place to place leading to mixed reviews. Those installers will have the support of the large corporation behind them, though, which can insure against supply issues or quality concerns.