Sunrise brief: New Jersey community solar program draws a flood of applicants


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New Jersey community solar

New Jersey regulators said they received 410 applications to participate in the second year of the state’s Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. Applications represent 800.5 MW of total capacity, and all but one project committed to serving low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities, a program focus.

The pilot program is administered by New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program and aims to provide access to solar energy through a subscription-based model. The model allows residents and businesses to virtually connect to a solar installation within their electric distribution company’s service territory. This design offers customers who are usually excluded from the solar market with a chance to benefit from clean energy.

In January, the first community solar projects were energized as part of the pilot program’s first year. Projects included 7 MW in Perth Amboy, near New York City, constructed by New Jersey-based developer Solar Landscape.

The program’s second year is expected to allocate 150 MW of award capacity (double that of Year 1) and includes a 40% earmark for projects serving mostly LMI households.

The regulatory authority will process and score the 410 applications based on an evaluation criteria that emphasizes LMI and environmental justice inclusion, low-impact siting, and community engagement. Projects must score a minimum of 50 points for consideration.

Navajo Nation advances 200 MW solar

The Navajo Nation is moving forward with a 200 MW solar plant on tribal land in Arizona after tribal leaders finalized lease details for the Cameron Solar. A committee of the Navajo Nation Council approved the lease in an earlier action. Salt River Project is the expected energy off-taker, although a power purchase agreement has not yet been signed.

Greenbacker buys a development portfolio

ReneSola Ltd. sold a 10 MW portfolio of solar development projects to Greenbacker Renewable Energy. The portfolio consists of three ground-mounted commercial distributed generation sites in Utah. The projects are behind the meter and will sell electricity directly to two off-take parties. The projects are being sold at the “Notice to Proceed” stage, and Greenbacker will complete the construction and retain long-term ownership. Financial details were not disclosed.

In late March, Greenbacker said that Rawhide Prairie Solar, a 22 MW project in Colorado, began commercial operation. An onsite Tesla battery pack is capable of storing up to 2 MWh of energy. The project was Greenbacker’s first solar-plus-storage project. DEPCOM Power handled the plant’s engineering and construction and will manage the project and deliver output to Platte River Power Authority, which signed a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Rescheduled trade show and conference

Intersolar North America (ISNA) and Energy Storage North America (ESNA) said that their combined conference and tradeshow is “impossible to hold in person” in 2021 due to the ongoing risks of Covid-19. New dates are set for Jan. 13-15, 2022 at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California. ISNA and ESNA will host a two-day digital summit July 14-15, 2021.

A push for flow batteries?

A new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) said that flow batteries could provide several days of electricity storage and could address some of the shortcomings of today’s dominant energy-storage technology, lithium-ion batteries.

The report called on Congress and the Department of Energy to “push this technology and others like it forward” by accelerating investments in R&D, testing, and demonstration.

Flow battery architecture can use a broad range of chemicals, including some materials that are cheap and highly abundant. But the report said that the most serious barrier for flow batteries is the absence of “first markets” that would rapidly accelerate development and cost reduction.

It called on DOE to create a path to R&D funding for universities and companies through a program dedicated to grid-scale storage, while also supporting test facilities and demonstration projects at national labs and elsewhere.

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