Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G), an investor-owned utility in New Jersey, announced its plan to invest $773 million to add 120 megawatts (MW) of utility-owned photovoltaics within its service territory. PSE&G's Solar 4 All Program is one of many large-scale utility-driven solar projects and programs SEPA anticipates to be rolled out this year as a result of changes to the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) instituted in October 2008. The most significant and relevant change removed a prohibition that prevented investor-owned electric utilities from utilizing the federal ITC for solar electric projects, making the economics attractive enough to stimulate utility investments.
The diversity of elements in the PSE&G program lend to its strength in targeting multiple markets segments. Dubbed "Solar 4 All," the plan includes a four pronged approach: adding PV panels on up to 200,000 utility poles; installing small rooftop PV systems on government facilities; installing large-scale solar power plants on utility property, brownfields, and underutilized real estate; and, installing systems on affordable housing developments.
Mike Taylor, SEPA director of research and education, says, "In 2008, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Duke Energy all announced similar programs focusing on utility ownership of distributed photovoltaics. “This distributed power plant' business model is a trend we expect to see continue in the future."
PSE&G's plan to mount solar panels on up to 200,000 utility poles is one of the more innovative parts of their proposed program. "No other utility to my knowledge has taken a similar approach," says Taylor. "In addition to adding solar capacity to the grid, this application has the potential for great educational value, both in familiarizing utility personnel with solar technology and putting widely deployed solar in front of millions consumers."
According to PSE&G, the Solar 4 All program has been submitted to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the regulatory body has 180 days to take action on the filing. PSE&G hopes to start installation in 2009 with the entire program rolling out over a 5-year period.