New Jersey's solar lifeline legislation already is boosting business, even though it hasn't yet been signed into law.
Trinity Solar, the state's largest solar firm, said this week it will rehire the workers it laid off in March. President and CEO Tom Pollock said about 55 of the 80 laid-off installers have been rehired. The company will hire another 25 people to bring the company back to full strength, he said.
Trinity, like many solar companies, had been a victim of uncertainty. Last year the state's solar market for the first time outgrew the state's chief solar incentive, called solar renewable energy certificates. Lawmakers spent months last fall and this spring trying to come to an agreement to fix the incentive program, without success.
Pollock said that caused some investors and potential clients to get cold feet.
"The market became so rough that people were kind of holding off," he said. "They wanted to see what was going to happen."
Pollock said the skittishness faded as momentum began to gather behind the final solar rescue bill. The bill passed both houses of the state Legislature with bipartisan majorities late last month.
Pollock is optimistic the bill will have its desired impact, giving a spark to the solar industry while avoiding the red-hot market conditions that created the problem in the first place.
Still, he said the solar industry that emerges from the turmoil will be different from the one that existed a year ago.
"I think you've seen contraction — quite a bit of contraction," he said.
Much of that contraction is due to smaller companies going out of business or moving on to other kinds of work. Pollock said the rapid rise of solar created a bandwagon effect, in which solar firms that amounted to little more than two guys and a truck sprang up.
Trinity, on the other hand, will be back above 400 workers this month, and Pollock said he may need to hire up to 50 additional installers to help complete its 2012 project list.