By Tom Johnson (Courtesy of NJ Spotlight)
The state is inching closer to deciding how many solar grid-supply projects will be built on New Jersey’s remaining agricultural land.
It is a contentious issue arising out of a bill approved more than a year ago to stabilize the state’s solar sector, with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities looking to determine which of 20 grid-supply projects proposed on farmlands will move forward. The agency deferred action on the projects last spring.
The controversy revolves around a Christie administration decision -- embodied in a new Energy Master Plan -- that aims to discourage large solar projects on agricultural land. Instead, it seeks to direct those grid-supply projects to closed garbage dumps and brownfields. Grid-supply projects provide electricity directly to the regional power grid, instead of supplying electricity to businesses and manufacturers to lower their energy costs.
The decision left many developers of grid-supply projects on farmland in a difficult quandary. Many had invested huge amounts of money and time moving their projects forward, which required numerous approvals from local, state, and federal agencies, as well PJM Interconnection, the operator of the nation’s largest electric power grid.
But the bill approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in the summer of 2012 gave the BPU wide latitude in deciding which of the projects gets built.
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