Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

Summary:There's an article today on our SmartPlanet sister site that provides a good overview of the current state of rebates and funding programs for solar projects in the United States. The bad news is that the economic climate still is making it tough to get installations off the ground (ditto with wind projects, as I reported yesterday).

There's an article today on our SmartPlanet sister site that provides a good overview of the current state of rebates and funding programs for solar projects in the United States. The bad news is that the economic climate still is making it tough to get installations off the ground (ditto with wind projects, as I reported yesterday). What's more, many of these programs had a time limit on them, and they will simply go away.

The good news is that projects are still getting the green light. One big example is the big announcement from Southern California Edison that it has awarded 36 new contracts toward assembling a utility scale solar project that spans California.

Together, these and other distributed sites in the utility's service area will produce 500 megawatts of generating capacity on either unused rooftops or in ground-mount sites. (Most of the locations as part of this part of the deal are rooftops: there are 31 total being earmarked for construction, the other five sites are on the ground.)

When it is complete, the distributed renewable generation project will cover 4 square miles of unused warehouse rooftops, according to Southern California Edison. The capacity generated by the solar panels will produce enough electricity to serve 325,000 homes.

Another example of utility-scale solar progress comes from my home state of New Jersey, even though the project is much smaller than the Southern California Edison one. In this case, Atlantic Green Power has won approval to build a 14.4 megawatt solar farm in Upper Pittsgrove, N.J.

When I spoke with executives at Atlantic Green Power about the project, there were two things that stuck out as indicators of the state of solar -- indeed, in renewable energy programs more broadly.

  1. Communities that are targets for the projects need big-time education. And, in some cases, local laws might have to be tweaked to allow for an installation. "Everyone loves the idea of solar, but until you educate them, it's a concern when it's in their backyard," says Atlantic Green Power President and CEO Robert Demos said that in the case of Upper Pittsgrove. Demos says his company agreed to a deed restriction on the property that will protect the land from real estate development. The site is approved for either farming or renewable energy, but Upper Pittsgrove is leery of wind turbines because of the noise and their size, Demos says. As it is, Atlantic Green Power will be planting hundreds of trees to camouflage the solar panels once they are install
  2. You need to proceed with caution. The project that Atlantic Green Power was greenlighted to undertake is confined to the eastern 90 acres of the site. There is a second tract of land that was not approved because the community wants to assess the impact of the first phase. Demos says his company will revisit its proposal for the western site.

Even so, Demos says that the project is three times larger than any other installation that has been received final approval in New Jersey.

If you're considering solar, either residential or commercial, you should probably also revisit my post from last week about funding options: 3 revelations about solar financing.

Topics: Browser

About

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist specializing in transformative technology and innovation. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In a past corporate life, Heather was editor of Computer Reseller News. She started her journalism lif... Full Bio

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