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Solar energy may see sunnier days ahead

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Lyle Rawlings, CEO of Advanced Solar Products.
Lyle Rawlings, CEO of Advanced Solar Products. - ()

Lyle Rawlings’ face lit up when Gov. Phil Murphy committed to expanding solar-energy generation in New Jersey, but the CEO of Flemington-based Advanced Solar Products knows some clouds still linger on the industry horizon.

One challenge is an import tax, initially 30 percent, which President Trump imposed on imported solar cells and panels. Rawlings and other industry executives say the tax could crimp the industry’s growth.

Another centers on the state’s financing incentive, known as Solar Renewable Energy Certificates. They’re used to track the amount of electricity that a solar-powered system generates, and owners of solar panel systems including large-scale solar developers can sell their SRECs to utilities through the state’s SREC market.

“We need a reliable standard that’s also priced high enough to drive investment in solar.”

Lyle Rawlings, CEO of Advanced Solar Products

“Right now, the SREC is unreliable, since their value is set by the market and can fluctuate significantly,” said Rawlings, who’s also president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, a Bordentown-based trade organization. “We need a reliable standard that’s also priced high enough to drive investment in solar.”

According to published reports, NJ SREC prices ranged anywhere from $165 to $262.50 in 2017. Massachusetts previously used an SREC-like system but is developing a new program, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, which Rawlings said could provide a steadier stream of solar incentives.

“Other than New Jersey, no state with an active market uses SRECs,” he said. “We need a new incentive system, but we have to also be sure it won’t hurt the individuals and companies that have already invested in the 88,000 systems that have already been installed in New Jersey.”

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