Members of Sussex Solar Gardens (SSG) launched their community-shared solar project at their first membership meeting at the Sussex-Wantage Library on Sept. 7.
Twenty local residents joined together to plan construction of the first community solar system in New Jersey in which they will share solar energy with their neighbors.
According to Alan Spector, Administrative Partner of SSG, “In October construction will begin on a 50KW solar system to be built on a local farm in Lafayette Township.”
The system will comprise only 156 solar panels which is why it is called a solar garden, not a solar farm.
Spector said that “Solar energy generated by the solar garden will flow to the grid and members will receive credits on their electric bills.”
This system will only serve current customers of Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative. Community solar systems have been in operation in 15 states but the concept is new to New Jersey which just passed legislation last year to enable them.
The solar installer, Frank DeWitt from Alternative Energy Associates in Frankford, described the layout of the solar system which includes micro-inverters for each panel. The small site (about one-tenth of an acre) will be cleared in early October so construction can proceed quickly.
A local accountant, John F. Higgins of Wantage (who is also a member of SSG) explained the tax benefits and quick payback for the members’ investment in the community-shared solar system.
“In addition to financial benefits members are reducing their carbon footprints, and Sussex Solar Gardens is also creating a sense of community because we are sharing locally produced renewable energy to the benefit of ourselves, our neighbors, our state, and our planet," Spector said. "There are still a few solar panels available, but local residents must reserve them as soon as possible since construction will begin in mid-October.”