A lot has happen since I wrote Renewables and Land Use Law in 2008. 2009 may be one of the best years for renewable energy in New Jersey. Several laws were passed 2009-2010 in NJ that help move the acceptance and adoption of renewable energy in NJ.
There were two very significant bills. The first modifies NJ land use laws. P.L. 2009 C. 146 adds the definition of inherently beneficial to the land use statutes. Up to now what was inherently beneficial was determined on a case by case basis and only after litigation. The recently enacted law defines inherently beneficial (for the first time) to include “wind, solar or photovoltaic energy facility or structure.” Being inherently beneficial is very useful for land use applicants who are seeking a D variance from their local land use board. D variances are the toughest to get and require the applicant to show that the positive aspects of the project outweigh the negatives. If your proposed project is inherently beneficial you automatically meet the positive requirements of a D variance. What is left is showing that the proposal does not create a substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impact the zone plan and township ordinances.
Another law that will have far ranging implications is P.L. 2009 c. 244. This law goes even farther than P.L. 2009 c. 146. In essence this bill requires municipalities to allow small wind turbines within their borders. The bill provides that municipalities “shall not unreasonably limit such limitations or unreasonably hinder the performance of such installations.” Under the bill municipalities cannot enact ordinances that unduly restrict the installation of renewable energy. A small wind energy system or turbine is one which is primarily for onsite consumption of electricity. It is considered an unreasonable for a municipality to:
- Prohibit small energy systems in all districts within the municipality
- Restricting tower height by applying generic height ordinances that does not make allowance for tower heights.
- Requiring setbacks more than 150 percent of the system height.
- Setting noise level lower than 55 decibels.
- Setting electrical or structural criteria that exceed the applicable UCC standards
This is a very important step forward for wind turbines in NJ. It will not remove all barriers to the installation of wind turbines as a town could require a setback of 150% which many property owners may not meet. Given that the towers for small wind energy systems are rated for hurricane winds, the setbacks really are overly restrictive.
P.L. 2009 c. 35 provides that on industrial property of 20 or more acres solar and wind systems are permitted uses. This would prevent municipalities from requiring variances for the installation of these systems. An applicant would only need a construction permit to install these kinds of systems.
P.L. 2009 c. 33 requires developers of new residential housing to offer as an option to their purchaser’s solar energy systems. This requirement applies developments of 25 units or more. The systems also must be covered under the New Home Warranty and Builder’s Registration Act. Interesting the Legislature set out a section of findings prefacing this law. The State has declared that, “[t]hat the installation of even small scale solar energy systems will combat global warming and reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources, resulting in a significant environment benefit.” I would suggest a similar finding can be found for wind in the State of NJ.
P.L. 2009 c. 289 revises our electricity generation laws. In particular it increases the amount of electricity that utilities selling power in NJ have to get from solar sources. The law also changes the requirement from a percentage of total electricity generation to absolute numbers. Under this law the State of NJ is requiring that utilities supply either directly or purchase from other generators the following gigawatt hours of electricity generated from solar systems:
|2011||306 Gwhrs||2019||1,858 Gwhrs|
|2012||442 Gwhrs||2020||2,164 Gwhrs|
|2013||596 Gwhrs||2021||2,518 Gwhrs|
|2014||772 Gwhrs||2022||2,928 Gwhrs|
|2015||965 Gwhrs||2023||3,433 Gwhrs|
|2016||1,150 Gwhrs||2024||3,989 Gwhrs|
|2017||1,357 Gwhrs||2025||4,160 Gwhrs|
|2018||1,591 Gwhrs||2026||5,316 Gwhrs|
After 2026 the State will still require at least 5,316 Gwhrs of electricity from solar sources. The law allows for the number of Gwhrs to be increased.
The law also permits that the above schedule can be increased by 20% if in the three preceding years there were enough or excess SRECs to meet the requirements and the average price of SRECs in the same three years decreased.
The State changed the system from requiring a percentage of energy to absolute numbers because of the intent in the Energy Master Plan to reduce overall all energy demand. If the RPS requirements remained as a percentage the State would start generating less electricity from renewable energy sources the more successful the EMP was.
The next two are not renewable energy bills but also fairly significant for the energy usage of NJ.
P.L. 2009 c. 106 requires the Department of Community Affairs to develop new enhanced energy codes. These codes are based upon the projected energy costs for the next tens years. The enhanced energy codes shall be designed to increase energy conservation for buildings. In 2006 buildings accounted for 39% of the energy use in the United States. So by enhancing the energy efficiency of new or renovated buildings will go a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and overall energy usage. The new codes are to be set so any increased in cost to meet the new codes will be paid back within seven years from the reduced energy usage.
Lastly, P.L. 2009 c. 33 allows BPU to give grant money to install energy efficiency, renewable energy, reduction in peak demand, and reduction in energy usage for commercial and industrial business with high peak demand. As industry is one of the largest users of energy in NJ some have argued that more money should be spent to help them reduce their energy demands and thus help NJ reduce its consumption of fossil fuels. I am frankly not that convinced that industry should be given this kind of hand out given that many of these energy efficiency, renewable energy systems will pay the company back in a relatively short time frame.
All of these new laws move renewable energy in NJ forward. They make it less expensive to buy, obtain permits and install. The laws improve the market for renewable energy by creating a greater demand. While NJ has moved forward we still have some road to travel. There are several bills being considered for the 2010-2011 legislative session that will again impact NJ’s energy and environmental future. I will look at these bills in a future post.
Other related posts:NJ declares wind and solar energy as inherently beneficial NJ Governor Canditates promote renewable energy, NJ needs more than rhetoric Governor takes small steps for renewable energy, more needed. Wind and Solar are ahead of coal in more than ways than one. Federal RPS has been introduced