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Sense of certainty helps would-be solar clients see the light

Locked-in SREC values give owners data to make long-term decisions

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Joe Olivo, of Perfect Printing, is waiting for these solar panels to be installed on the roof of his business. His clients are eager to say they work with a ‘green’ printer, he says.
Joe Olivo, of Perfect Printing, is waiting for these solar panels to be installed on the roof of his business. His clients are eager to say they work with a ‘green’ printer, he says. - (AARON HOUSTON)

Joe Olivo had been getting solicitations from solar developers for years before he finally decided to give a company called EnterSolar a try.
“EnterSolar came in and made a good presentation and showed us the economics of how this could work for us,” said Olivo, president of Perfect Printing, a family-owned printing services company in Moorestown.

One key part of making solar work for Perfect Printing was a loan from Public Service Electric & Gas's Solar Loan program. The state's largest utility has since 2008 provided loans to homeowners and small businesses seeking to go solar. The Board of Public Utilities-approved program gives business owners the stability of a long-term contract.

Under the deals, the utility is repaid with solar renewable energy certificates, an incentive earned by solar installers.

Olivo has been waiting since November 2011 for the financing to be finalized and the system installed. The latter was scheduled to happen late last month.

PSE&G was just approved for a third Solar Loan round, under which it aims to finance the installation of 97.5 megawatts of new solar.

News of the third installment was welcomed by developer, which can now use the financing mechanism to finance new projects.

Michael Peters, program manager for the Solar Loan program, said it works because it gives clients a locked-in SREC value, even if the value is low.

“They need that certainty to make those long-term capital decisions,” he said.

Still, Peters said the low cost of SRECs is changing the types of projects that go forward.

“We're seeing more projects that are cost-efficient and cost-driven,” he said. “So low-cost rooftop projects — we're seeing more of that versus high-cost parking canopy projects.”

Olivo's rooftop solar installation is 278 kilowatts. He said the installation will have multiple benefits — “Without a doubt, it's the ability to save on our electrical rates,” he said — but it also pleases the company's clients, such as universities, that like to be able to say they used a “green” printer.

“We're very conscious of our clients' environmental concerns,” he said.

Todd Hranicka, director of solar energy for PSE&G, said he hopes Solar Loan III is as successful as the previous iterations. While utilities and solar developers in other states have sometimes fought heated battles over access to the electric grid and other issues, Hranicka said his company wants to see solar survive.

“I attended SEPA (the Solar Electric Power Association), a utility organization, maybe six weeks ago,” he said, and the other utilities do not have the support that I have for their solar operations.

He said PSE&G's executive team is committed to giving customers the option of solar.

“We feel pretty fortunate about that,” he said. “It makes our job a little bit easier.”

E-mail to: jaredk@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @jaredkaltwasser

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