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PSE&G gets NJ approval to spend $515 mln on solar

LOS ANGELES, July 29 (Reuters) - Public Service Enterprise Group Inc PEG.N unit PSE&G can spend $515 million of ratepayer money for 80 megawatts of solar power projects, New Jersey utility regulators ruled on Wednesday.

Regulators reduced PSE&G’s original proposal of $773 million for 120 megawatts of solar power. The state utility regulating board killed plans for solar panels on government buildings.

Some 40 megawatts of power will be generated by placing small solar units on 200,000 power poles in the PSE&G service territory. PSE&G says this will be the largest pole-attached solar project in the world.

The other 40 MW will come from solar panels on commercial roofs and in “solar gardens” owned by PSE&G as well as third parties.

The projects are to be installed by the end of 2013. By the time they are up and generating, most PSE&G customers will be paying between 10 cents to 35 cents per month for them.

At $515 million for 80 megawatts, the cost per megawatt for the project is about $6.4 million, while it costs about $500,000/MW for natural gas power plants, $2 million/MW for coal plants and $4 million/MW for nuclear power plants.

When all units are up and generating, 80 MW can power about 640,000 New Jersey households.

PSE&G is allowed a 10 percent rate of return on the projects.

PSE&G is the regulated gas and electric utility in New Jersey for its parent, which is based in Newark, New Jersey.

“Our program will effectively double the size of New Jersey’s installed solar capacity,” said Ralph LaRossa, president and chief operating officer of PSE&G.

“That is more solar capacity than currently exists in any state other than California,” he said.

PSE&G also said it has awarded the contract for the pole-positioned solar units to Petra Solar of South Plainfield, New Jersey.

Petra Solar chief executive Shihab Kuran said his company’s solar units will use “smart” technology and be connected to the power grid.

The portion of the plan to install solar panels on commercial roofs and in “solar gardens” is similar to one approved by California regulators for Southern California Edison in June. SCE plans 500 MW of solar photovoltaic panels on commercial roofs.

SCE is the biggest unit of Edison International EIX.N.

PSEG owns and operates more than 16,500 MW of generating capacity, markets energy commodities, and transmits and, in New Jersey, distributes electricity to 2.1 million customers and natural gas to 1.7 million customers. It also has another 2.9 million customers around the world. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Jim Marshall)