Solar power installations top 1 GW in New Jersey

Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:59pm EDT

* Enough energy to supply 139,000 homes

* Costs remain higher than natural gas, fossil fuels

By Scott DiSavino

March 19 (Reuters) - The New Jersey solar power market topped one gigawatt (GW) of installed electric capacity, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), an industry trade group, said in a release Tuesday.

That is enough solar energy to power 139,000 homes.

In total, more than 415 megawatts (MW) of solar was added to the state's power grid in 2012, a 33 percent increase over 2011 (313 MW), SEIA said, noting, New Jersey is the third state in the nation to the hit the one GW solar mark after California and Arizona.

SEIA said the main drivers behind New Jersey's successful solar market were the state's net metering laws, its solar power requirement and the declining cost of solar power systems.

SEIA said the weighted average photovoltaic system prices fell 27 percent in 2012, reaching $5.04/Watt (W) in the residential market, $4.27/W in the non-residential market, and $2.27/W in the utility market.

Despite those declines, solar power and other non-carbon emitting renewables are still much more expensive than natural gas and other fossil-fired sources of generation. It costs about $1 million/megawatt (MW) or $1/W to build a natural gas-fired plant, according to federal data.

SEIA said solar is the fastest-growing energy source in the United States with 3,313 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity installed in 2012, a record for the industry.

At the end of 2012, SEIA said there were 7,221 MW of photovoltaic solar and 546 MW of concentrating solar power online in the United States, enough to power 1.2 million homes.

Some of the biggest solar power suppliers and developers include units of First Solar Inc, SunPower Corp , Yingli Green Holding Co Ltd, Abengoa SA , E.ON SE, Electricite de France and EDP Renovaveis SA.