Solar Should Be Simple – Back to SRECs

Guest post by Ian Clarke about their journey to solar in New Jersey, part of the Solar Should be Simple series written for Green Lifestyle Changes.

Previous chapter: Contractor #3

Back to SRECs

Since late June 2011, we’ve been generating plenty of solar electricity, more than 13,500 kWh to date, from a system that’s supposed to generate a name-plate 12,500 kWh a year. But we still didn’t have final installation approval from NJCEP, but that shouldn’t be a big deal, we were told. Our contractor and my contact at NJCEP assured me that any SRECs would be grandfathered back to when the system went live and not just to the final approval date.

The contractor told us it would be 1-3 months for the final approval, so after about four, I started pinging him for status updates and got some story about JCPL not talking to the state, then another about glitches in some Honeywell computer system. Then I began not getting any responses, nor was anything progressing.

I dug up my contact at NJCEP, who told me that a piece of paperwork was missing: a final site map showing the location of the array, the disconnect switch and the meter. After much back and forth, we reached an impasse our contractor swore he had sent it to the NJCEP, and the agency denied it had it.

Final Site Map showing array, disconnect switch & meter

To move things along, I ended up creating one myself, emailing it to my contact, who approved it, and asked me to mail it in, which I did. For some obscure reason, NJCEP requires paper documents to be sent via USPS.

A couple of days later, my contact confirmed receipt and verified that we needed nothing more to get either an inspection or waiver and final approval. The latter arrived within about three and half weeks. This was a mere seven months or so since we had gone live.

Now we had an official N.J. renewable energy facility number and could register our facility with PJM GATS, the generation and REC tracking system for the regional transmission operator that controls the power grid for New Jersey, 12 other states and Washington, D.C. Once registered and approved, we’d be able to sell our SRECs and start seeing a return on our investment, in addition to the monthly savings on our electric bill. That, by the way, amounts to a hefty $2.20, which I am sure is far less than the cost to process the transaction.

If only it were that simple. I needed one additional piece of information to complete my GATS registration: the interconnection approval date; the day JCPL gave the green light to our electricity exports through the new bi-directional meter.

I contacted our contractor, who forwarded an email that amounted to what JCPL considered the final interconnect approval. It was dated December 15, 2011, almost six months, 7,000 kWh, or 7 SRECs, after we had gone live. I was assured that was the definitive interconnect date, so December was what I had to include in GATS as our official go-live date. Those 7 SRECs would disappear as a result.

I pushed our contractor for a better answer, who finally contacted JCPL. The initial response was that December was it, but further prodding got us the answer we needed: the interconnect had been officially approved in early July, so our production since then would be eligible for SRECs.

GATS enabled me to make the change, and finally I was able to upload our monthly generation data from July – February. A corresponding 8 SRECs were granted to us at the end of February.

It had now been two years since the concept of going solar began taking shape. Back in early 2010, N.J. SRECs had been trading in excess of $600 each, which was one of the economic drivers of our project. Of course, the SREC program was designed to create an economic incentive to build solar generation in New Jersey, and it certainly has done that.

Current and project solar generation projects now exceed the minimum state renewable portfolio standards, and that, coupled with sunnier-than-usual weather this winter, is creating a significant oversupply of SRECs for at least the next 2-3 years. As a result, prices tumbled, and 2012 SRECs traded as low as $88/SREC. We managed to sell our initial 8 SRECs for $145 each in March. In mid-May, legislation was introduced in New Jersey to bolster the SREC market, and prices rebounded to $150-$155 as a result. We’ll see if they hold; state legislation on this topic has failed before… For the latest SREC prices, visit Flett Exchange’s web site.

Continue to next chapter, Solar Statistics (coming soon)

Ground mounted solar array
Solar Should Be Simple Series

This chapter is a part of the Solar Should Be Simple Series written by Ian Clarke about his family’s journey to install a residential solar array at their home in New Jersey.  You can read more about their journey to solar or check out our own journey to solar in Massachusetts in our Going for Solar Series.  Happy Greening!

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  1. I hope everyone in NJ who have alaerdy installed any solar system to stand up and raise their voice. and hopefully that we can have the RPS bill passes.

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