For NJ’s Christie, Solar Isn’t A Political Punching Bag

Give Chris Christie a little credit; the governor of New Jersey might not be Jerry Brown-like in his enthusiasm for solar power, but for a Republican – especially one who might someday have presidential aspirations – he’s doing OK.

Just last week Christie signed into law a bill that boosts the amount of energy New Jersey utilities are required to get from renewables in the short term, a move that should shore up a renewable energy credit market that’s been sagging, and keep the state’s strong solar development rolling along.

christie solar new jersey

Gov. Chris Christe at Hackensack, N.J. solar site. (image via Governor’s Office)

Then this week, there was the governor, very publicly supporting an $883 million Public Service Electric and Gas initiative to develop 233 megawatts of solar capacity in New Jersey.

PSEG announced the move, which will need approval from the state’s Board of Public Utilities, at the site of another in a series of projects that are turning landfills and brownfields into solar projects. Christie was there, grabbing the solar spotlight, with PSEG head man Ralph Izzo.

The 1.06-MW PSE&G Hackensack Solar Farm is part of the utility’s Solar 4 All program. When Hackensack goes into service later this year, PSE&G said,”the utility will have reclaimed more than 40 acres or about 30 football fields of vacant brownfield and landfill space, populating those sites with more than 40,000 solar panels that will produce more than 10 MWs of solar power.”

The goal in expanding the initiative is to jack that amount up to 90 MW, while also adding 20 MW of solar on warehouse roofs (where New Jersey is a real leader) and 25 MW on large parking lots.

“Governor Christie deserves recognition for his forceful support of developing green energy projects on these sites, which benefit the state’s economy and environment, as well as the communities where these properties are located,” Rizzo said in a statement.

Now it’s true that Christie has pulled back from the state’s longer-term, 2020 renewables standard of 30 percent, watering it down to 22.4 percent. And he’s withdrawn the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Northeast’s version of cap-and-trade. And he’s used hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s Clean Energy Fund to close budget gaps.

All of this has understandably earned him the ire of solar advocates, who characterize his signing the new solar bill as the only thing he could do to clean up a mess he’s created. But remember, this is a Republican we’re talking about. Post-Solyndra, for many in the GOP, solar is the devil’s work. As Fox News commentator Juan Williams wrote, Republicans “are so obsessed with discrediting the president that they are condemning the entire solar industry and making themselves into villains.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/Solar_Amy Amy Bowman

    New Jersey homes, schools and businesses should all be taking advantage of the solar opportunity given my Chris Christie! 

    • DDcalltoaction

      If New Jerseyans, left without jobs at the hands of Republicans had the funds to buy solar, don’t you think we would?