Here's one for the "Who'd a thunk it?" category: New Jersey ranks 2nd among states with grid-connected solar power. Right after California.
That's right, New Jersey. Not Nevada, not Arizona, not New Mexico. Not the Sunshine State, which doesn't even rank in the top 10.
But tiny, cloudy New Jersey, up here in the gray Northeast. It generates 9% of the nation's grid-connected solar power. Some 4,000 photovoltaic installations are pumping out more than 85 MW of electricity.
How did the state do it?
As this article explains, by a combination of goal-setting, smart policies and investment. Here's a summary of what New Jersey did:
1. Set up new standards for 2-way metering and interconnections between meters and the grid.
2. Did away with rebates funded by the state and instead introduced free-market-based Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC). Utilities that didn't want to invest in solar power generation could buy SRECs from installers and operators of solar facilities.
3. Invested $3 million to set up the 1st SREC tracking and trading system in the country.
4. Added Master Plan goals to reduce energy use 20% by 2020 and generate 30% of all electricity from renewable sources by 2020, including 2.12% (about 3.1 GW) from solar power.
5. Invested $260 million between 2002 and 2008 to stimulate the solar power industry.
They learned from their experiences and fine-tuned their programs over the years, and now solar installations are growing like bamboo shoots all over New Jersey.