Solar in Jersey City - Here and Now

The time is right for Solar in New Jersey, and in Jersey City we have a lot of opportunity.  Whether you are a condo owner, home owner, or have a small or large business, if you own a rooftop or parking lot with unobstructed sunlight, you have a money making machine.  Add to that the local jobs you create, and the environmental benefits...what's not to like? ShopRite JC Solar Roof

Cruise around Jersey City from above with Google Maps and you’ll see dozens of solar installations, from the 30 panels on my rooftop on Wayne Street to the giant installations atop Macy’s and ShopRite.  We can expand this to hundreds of installations and make a significant dent in the city’s Carbon Footprint, reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, and create hundreds of local jobs in the process.

If you want to go solar, first make sure your roof is in good shape.  Panels last 30 years, and so will a good commercial roof.  A typical residential roof needs resurfacing every 15 years, so you’ll need to replace your roof once during that time, but why do it twice?  And consider combining with a green roof, which can last 50-100 years, provide much needed insulation, and reduce storm water overflow.

Second, decide whether you want to own the system, or simply rent your roof.  This second option, called a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement), lets a company install panels on your roof, and sell you the power at a specified price over the next 20 years.  You’ll generally save 20-30% on your electric bill now, and even more in the future.

On Tuesday, November 4th, 7pm at City Hall, we’ll have three presentations giving an overview of solar installation and financing, how community solar can accelerate installations in your neighborhood, and advocacy opportunities for legislation to encourage and streamline solar in Jersey City.  Event details:  SJC Eat Meet and Talk

There’s more information on Solar in our Resources page in the Energy section.

Don’t own a roof?  Don’t have time for advocacy?  Still want to lower your carbon footprint and support Clean, Renewable energy?  You can choose an Energy Supplier that uses Wind and Solar Farms to power your apartment and only pay a few extra dollars per month.  Track down your PSEG account number and you can make the switch online in just a few minutes.  Learn about the NJ Clean Power Choice program here:  Clean Energy Providers.


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Clean Energy Subsidies and the Presidential Debate

In last night’s Presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney stated Clean Energy subsidies in Obama’s 2009 Recovery Act were $90 Billion in one year, while Oil and Gas subsidies are only $2.9 Billion per year.  He also stated that half the companies subsidized failed.  President Obama didn’t give a response, but I will. First off, the $90 Billion was not all handed out in one year, it’s a program that lasts over a number of years. Second, Clean Energy is a new industry, and should enjoy assistance until economies of scale can kick in.  The Fossil Fuel industry started at the beginning of the 20th century, and matured during World War II.  Here’s a quote from an excellent article on this topic:

...between 1918 and 2009, the oil and gas industry received a cumulative $446.96 billion in subsidies compared to just $5.93 billion given to renewables in the years between 1994 and 2009. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry benefitted from a cumulative $185.38 billion in federal subsidies between 1947 and 1999.

The analysis this article refers to doesn’t include the $90 Billion in the Recovery Act, but even adding that in, you can see we have a long way to go to match the $446 billion oil and gas has enjoyed.

As for whether the government should be able to pick winners and losers, there is a tradeoff to be made here.  Our government can do nothing, and let entrenched industries strangle innovation (our policy from 1968 to 1992 with the exception of some Carter initiatives), or we can give a boost to an industry that shows promise of removing the damage to our health, our environment and our climate that the established energy sources do not.  Our representatives and our administration may do a bad analysis, as they did when they pushed for corn based fuel sources, but it doesn’t mean we should try to make a change for the better.

Also we need to consider that in a new industry, there will be a lot of losers.  Experimentation and innovation invites the chance of failure.

In the Gas industry, companies spent billions in the past 10 years, some of it our tax dollars, building import terminals to take compressed natural gas off ships and put into pipelines across the country.  Now, thanks to the expanded use of hydraulic fracking, those facilities are useless, unless they spend billions more converting them to export the excess natural gas we are now pumping out of the ground (Plenty more can be said about hydraulic fracking, check out

In the Solar industry, we have Solyndra, which bet that the price of polysilicon would remain high and was wrong and didn’t have a fall back plan.  Our tax dollars gave them a start, and when they asked for more two years later, we said no.  How is that a failure of our subsidization process?

So when someone tells you the Clean Energy subsidies are too expensive, remind them that subsidies for the Coal, Oil, Gas, and Nuclear were all much higher in their first 40 years.  Remind them that the decision to use these resources ignored the environmental, and thus economic damage that ensued.  Remind them that jobs that capture a renewable resource will never go away.

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