Photovoltaics

Modules: Thirty-two BP SX170, 170 W STC, 35.4 Vmp

Array: Two 6-module series strings parallel, 2,040 W STC, 212.4 Vmp; two 10-module series strings parallel, 3,400 W STC, 354 Vmp; 5.44 KW STC total

Array disconnect: Two Square D, 30 A, 600 VDC

Array installation: UniRac mounts; south-facing; 12 modules mounted parallel to roof at 35 degree tilt; 20 modules mounted on elevated racks at 10 degree tilt

Balance of System

Inverters: Two Power-One (Magnetek) Aurora PVI-3000, 600 VDC maximum input voltage, 90-580 VDC operating range, 240 VAC output

System performance metering: Internal inverter meters & utility KWH meter

PV in New Jersey—Incentive Ups & Downs

With favorable financial incentives for PV systems, it's no surprise that solar energy has had a strong start in New Jersey. During the first six years of the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (NJCEP), the state granted more than $120 million in rebates for PV projects, with the highest number of rebates and installations occurring in 2006. The total amount of rebates given in 2006 was 1,670 times greater than that in 2001.

But with so many new systems going online with the help of state funds, New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities began reducing the rebate in 2005. When the solar rebate program launched, the NJCEP offered $5.50 per watt, or 70% of the cost of the installed system (whichever was lower), up to a maximum of 10 KW of installed capacity. As of August 2007, the rebate is $3.80 per watt—smaller, but still substantial. The NJCEP has announced a new rebate reduction to $3.50 per watt effective September 1, 2007. However, due to high demand and rapid growth of the program, some customers and installers have been waiting more than a year to find out whether their rebate applications have been accepted.

In an effort to smooth what has at times been a roller-coaster ride for New Jersey PV system installers and potential customers, NJCEP is investigating a performance-based rebate structure for commercial systems and a performance-based/smaller up-front rebate structure for systems less than 10 KW. Under the performance-based model, consumers receive their incentives on an ongoing basis as their systems produce clean energy, and solar facility owners are awarded a cost-per-KWH incentive for the electricity they generate with PV systems. This past spring, the NJCEP implemented a pilot program in which the state does not offer an up-front rebate, but instead compensates system owners by awarding them SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates), financial credits granted by the state's public utility commission.

Significant financial incentives that support solar electricity are not limited to New Jersey. About 20 states have their own clean energy rebate programs that make solar energy an attractive investment for residential and commercial energy consumers alike, and individual utilities in these and other states may offer their own incentive programs as well. (For specifics, see the Database for State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org.)

A one-time federal tax credit of up to $2,000 is also available for residential solar energy systems, and business owners investing in renewable energy technologies are eligible for a federal tax credit equal to 30% of their system's costs.

and 52 pounds of sulfur dioxide from being emitted each year, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates.

The Ptaks' multiple PV systems also have had a positive influence on their community. "Everyone was basically blown away," says Peter. "I tell them all about the program, and they become very interested and want to learn more. [Some of them may be] a bit put off by the initial cost, but those who really understand the concept realize that it is ultimately an investment that pays off in the long run." One of Peter's co-workers decided to have an 8.5 KW ground-mounted system installed in 2006. Peter says that several other homeowners he knows "have been very interested in learning more about the systems that they could feasibly install. People are intrigued by the 'no electric bill' factor."

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Regina Anne Kelly is a professional writer and the author of Energy Supply and Renewable Resources (Facts On File, 2007). Her articles have appeared in several scientific and trade journals. She holds an M.A. in English literature from Fordham University and a B.A. in journalism and English from Rutgers College.

Ptak System Economics

Item

Residence (5.44 KW) Amount S Per KW

Rentals (9.86 KW) Amount S Per KW

Item

Residence (5.44 KW) Amount S Per KW

Installed cost

$42,704

$7,850

State rebate

-29,892

-5,495

SREC payments

-1,200

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