New Jersey politicians, clean energy and environmental justice advocates and news media convened at an Earth Day week community solar event organized by project developer Solar Landscape to highlight a regional warehouse and logistics business providing solar energy to some 700 local residents.
On Wednesday, pv magazine USA toured a 1.1 MW (dc) rooftop solar system of RPM Warehousing and Transportation in Avenel, N.J., where Brendon Shank, executive vice president for engagement, Solar Landscape, introduced seven statewide speakers who discussed the shared benefits of equitable solar generation hosted on commercial and industrial rooftops.
Thomas Connery, chief operating officer of site host RPM Warehousing, told pv magazine USA that after the owner, operator and lessor of 10 warehouse facilities first installed a 480 kW rooftop solar array to offset its Edison, N.J. headquarters’ energy consumption in 2017, its management team saw the benefits of providing its “hundreds of thousands of square feet” warehouse roof space to provide clean energy to local residents.
Connery said RPM now generates 4.3 MW of solar energy from two of its warehouse facilities in Edison and Avenel, N.J., which is available to local residents, and the logistics business plans to install a third rooftop solar array of about 3.5 MW to 4 MW on a 480,000 square foot facility at a site within a few miles of its Edison home base.
The logistics executive said having on-site solar generation has offset 100% of the company’s own energy consumption, and over the last two years it saw traction in the New Jersey community solar market taking off to provide clean power access to local residents, many of whom are in low-to-moderate income households. In the early stages of providing community solar to Garden State residents, Connery said combined its facilities have saved local residents about $150,000 per year in energy savings and removed 3,600 tons of CO2 emissions from being burned by conventional power plants.
Solar Landscape’s Shank said RPM’s first 3.2 MW facility in Edison, N.J. is nearly fully subscribed, while its second facility (1.1 MW) is nearing completion. John Bruno, a Solar Landscape rooftop installer, said the 1.1 MW facility is using about 2,300 Hanwha QCells modules on its rooftop, equipped with SolarEdge inverters. The installation took about one month to assemble.
Bruno said he received solar installation training over a week-long training course held at a GAF Energy training center in Asbury Park, N.J., and finds the new career exciting, while in a nascent market “creating thousands of jobs along the way.”
“Solar jobs are booming in New Jersey thanks to community solar,” said Tony Staynings, business community liaison, Edison Job Corps, a career training program for young adults. “We are training our students to become part of the green energy workforce of the future and build projects like the one we are touring today.”
After neighboring state Maryland put out official plans for a long-term community solar platform earlier this week, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is in the mid stages of seeing the state’s pilot community solar framework become a long-term platform. The New Jersey Board is receiving public stakeholder feedback at an April 24 public hearing, taking place at 1 p.m., while stakeholders have a May 15 deadline to send feedback to the regulator for or against the community solar framework, said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, a clean energy advocacy group.
“New Jersey is the Saudi Arabia of rooftops,” said O’Malley about the Garden State’s many adaptable rooftop areas suitable for commercial and industrial solar systems.
Just 20 years ago, New Jersey had just six solar installations under its belt. Now the state has 4.41 GW of aggregate solar installations and provides enough clean energy to more than 705,165 households, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, who represents the state’s 19th legislative district in Perth Amboy, N.J., was in attendance at the event and commended Solar Landscape for installing “shared access” power systems that provide clean energy to low-income residents across her district.
“Whether it’s local composting, recycling, or now shared community energy access, we’re building a future for a time to come,” said Matilde Montalvo, a local community solar subscriber who signed up to procure power from a community solar project over the last year.
Formed in 1981, RPM Warehousing is a public warehousing and transportation company with 1.5 million square feet of food-grade and general warehousing space along the East Coast at 10 facilities.
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