A few years ago New Jersey was considered a national leader in solar energy, but that is no longer the case.

Hundreds of industrial and commercial projects that are partially subsidized by a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities incentive program, and must be completed within a 12-month period have been stalled and put on hold because of supply chain disruption issues and other pandemic-related problems.

Inflation is making things worse

According to Fred DeSanti, the executive director of the New Jersey Solar Energy Coalition, another factor making things difficult is the rapidly rising cost of materials used in solar panels.

“We can’t change the price of electricity which is one source of our revenue, and the other source of revenue to make this work is the state program where it provides the incentives necessary for us to construct these facilities," he said.

DeSanti said solar technology continues to improve but “the materials that go into it are things that are subject to inflation. I mean you’re talking about aluminum rackings, steel rackings, glass, silicon, and a lot of the materials are just subject to inflationary pressures.”

Concept of Solar Panel
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He said when other types of companies deal with the impact of inflation they can change the prices they charge for their product, but solar companies are not able to do that because they are subject to long-term contracts.

He stressed with the state goal of converting to 100% renewable energy by 2050, expanding solar energy projects in New Jersey is vitally important, but at the moment things are stuck in neutral.

“It’s something we know how to do, it’s something I think in the future has to play a very significant role in renewable energy in New Jersey, it’s just a natural for us to have these kinds of things,” he said.

So will solar energy continue to expand?

He pointed out New Jersey’s residential solar programs are doing fine but “the bigger projects — the ones on landfills, the ones on brownfields and carports — these are the more complicated projects that are really in jeopardy at this point.”

He hopes that in the not too distant future, solar panels will look like regular roofing material that can be used on most or all new homes, and you won’t even be able to tell they are collecting the sun’s rays for energy.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether rules will be loosened to allow for solar projects to have more time to be completed while still being eligible to l receive subsidies.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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