State Director, Environment New Jersey
State Director, Environment New Jersey
Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center
Newark – New Jersey’s cities rank among national leaders on installed solar capacity, according to an Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center Shining Cities report. Newark ranks 16th among dozens of metropolitan areas analyzed, the 8th per capita nationally for the amount of solar installed and the top city per capita in the New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions, with 78 watts of installed solar per person in the city.
Newark’s presence in the ranking among larger, sunnier cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix – together with the impressive solar growth of Elizabeth and Jersey City– shows that smart solar policies at the local level can pave the way for solar energy’s advance. Perth Amboy, Clifton, Trenton, Bayonne, New Brunswick, Camden and Paterson round out New Jersey’s top 10 solar cities.
“New Jersey’s cities are turning out to be big stars in our transition to clean energy,” said Matt Getz, solar campaign organizer with NJPIRG Student Chapters. “By building on the progress we’ve made and calling upon other cities to follow their lead, New Jersey’s cities can be a shining solar example for neighboring states.”
Solar power is on the rise across the country, with another panel or project installed every three minutes last year. Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming and energy independence, and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of the pollution-free energy source.
“Despite changes in the solar market in New Jersey over the past few years, Newark has continued to be a leader in installed solar capacity by prioritizing the creation and promotion of sustainable development activity throughout the city,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “The city has seen the need to reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions while creating green job opportunities and we have continued to support solutions to reduce the impact of climate change, promote renewable energy, and save money on our increasing utility bills.”
The roles of local governments are especially critical in states like New Jersey. Currently ranked third in the nation for solar capacity, New Jersey has slipped from second place in 2010, when Governor Christie took office. Over the past five years, the Governor has diverted more than $1 billion from ratepayer payments on electricity bills designed to fund clean energy programs. But solar has grown in New Jersey’s cities.
“Having witnessed the installation of renewable energy systems at five of our Newark Public Schools, several at the Newark Housing Authority in our communities, and through the city among our private sector partners, there’s still more work to be done. The need for continued, strategic renewable energy development is essential for us to remain one of the top 20 cities nationwide for gross installed solar capacity and the top solar city in the Northeast. However, we see these challenges as opportunities to excel. We will use the energy of solar power to help transform Newark into an example for the nation and a city we can all believe in,” said Mayor Baraka.
The report was released on the roof of NJIT’s Campus Center, which is decked with 160 solar panels. The panels were installed more than a decade ago by LB Electric, produce 50 KW of power and has saved NJIT more than $300,000 over the last decade.
“Achieving a sustainable world is one of NJIT’s core missions, and we view new forms of energy production as central to that goal. Our scientists, engineers, and creative incubator companies are addressing this challenge on many fronts, from more efficient silicon cell manufacturing technology, to higher-efficiency thin-film photovoltaics, to next-generation, paintable carbon nanotube PV, to novel architectural design concepts for building-integrated photovoltaics,” said Donald Sebastian, president of NJIT’s New Jersey Innovation Institute. “As Newark emerges as a leading Smart City, NJIT will be there as a partner to infuse cutting-edge technology into practical solutions for sustainable urban living.”
Solar also helps to reduce air pollution, especially on hot summer days, when the electric grid is most strained – and when ozone alerts are most common. Essex County, which garnered a failing grade in the American Lung Association’s 2015 State of the Air report, has more than 54,000 adults who suffer from asthma and more than 16,000 asthmatic children. Hudson County received a D for air quality, and has more than 47,000 asthmatic adults and more than 11,000 children who suffer from asthma. Solar is also an investment against climate change and the heat island impact that scientists predict for cities. Climate models predict that cities like Newark would face more than 70 days above 90 degrees later this century and 25 days above 100 degrees.
As the Paris climate talks commence today, one of America’s key policy initiatives in negotiations will be the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which will reduce carbon emission by 32% by 2030 from the country’s fossil fuel power sector. Despite New Jersey’s opposition to the plan, solar is a key building block in complying with the EPA requirements to reduce New Jersey’s carbon emissions by roughly a quarter oer the next 15 years. While House Republicans plan a vote to oppose the initiative, the vote is expected to be thwarted by a certain Presidential veto.
“With prices going down, concern about global warming going up, and continued policy leadership at the city-level, solar power is growing rapidly in New Jersey’s cities,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “As the Paris climate talks kick off, our cities can be clean energy catalysts, and help us to meet the EPA Clean Power Plan and reduce air pollution by allowing solar to shine.”
The Obama Administration this summer announced a Solar For All initiative to make it easier for middle and low-income communities to embrace solar. Cities around the state have been assisted by local non-profits and community development corporations, like La Casa de Don Pedro, in Newark, adopting the technology. Companies like Grid Alternatives are directly providing assistance to low-income communities and individuals across the country, and have installed 4 installation in Camden and are working on Newark installations.
“La Casa de Don Pedro is proud to be doing our part to help advance solar power. When we installed solar panels on our administrative office three years ago, we did so not only to reduce our electric costs, but we felt it was our responsibility to do what we could to help reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. We also make it our priority to help families make their homes more energy efficient by offering home energy conservation programs to low income Essex County residents. But there is still so much more we, and all of us can do to cut back on our dependency on fossil fuels and make more environmentally friendly choices to sustain this planet. We are pleased that Newark is among the leading cities across the country to use solar power, and we are excited about the possibilities to make an even deeper impact,” said Ray Ocasio, president of La Casa de Don Pedro.
Top Solar Cities (over 50,000 w/ population density of at least 7,500 people/square mile of land)
1) Newark (22.4 MW)
24.2 sq miles land; Population: 280,579; 11,594 people/square mile
Newark Farmer’s Market – 1.1 MW, Camden St. School 975KW, Barringer High School/STEAM Academy 647KW
2) Elizabeth (14.1 MW)
12.3 sq miles land; Population: 128,705; 10,464 people/square mile
Elizabeth Industrial Center – 1.6 MW
3) Jersey City (13.9 MW)
14.8 sq miles land; Population: 262,146 people; 17,712 people/square mile
Goya Factory – 3.4 MW (Installed 2015)
4) Perth Amboy (12.9 MW)
4.7 sq miles land; Population – 52,328 people; 11,134 people/square mile
US Foods – 8.1 MW – gets 85% of Metro New York Division power from solar
5) Clifton (7.8 MW)
11.2 sq. miles land; Population – 85,927 people; 7,676 people/square mile
6) Trenton (7.5 MW)
7.6 sq. miles land; Population – 84,034 people; 11,057 people/square mile
100 Kilowatts at the Faith Baptist Church
7) Bayonne (7.3 MW)
5.8 sq. miles land; Popluation – 65,975 people; 11,375 people/square mil
1.9 MW on Bayonne Public Schools
8) New Brunswick (6.6 MW)
5.2 sq. miles; Population – 57,080 people; 10,976 people/square mile
1.7 MW at St. Peter’s University Hospital
9) Camden (5.1 MW)
8.9 sq. miles; Population – 77,332 people; 8,689 people/square mile
10 low income homes got solar from Grid Alternatives in Sept. will save residents $1,000/year
10) Paterson (3.3 MW)
8.4 sq. miles; Population – 146,753 people; 17,471 people/square mile
NJPIRG Student Chapters is a student-based, non-profit organization that works to engage students to work on the world’s most pressing problems ranging from environmental and consumer protections to hunger and homelessness. For more information, please visit www.njpirgstudentchapters.org.
Environment New Jersey is the statewide, citizen-funded advocacy group working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. For more information, please visit www.environmentnewjersey.org.