Grace commits to solar power
During the week of June 17, 2012. Eighty-Six 245-watt solar panels were installed at Grace Episcopal Church, 7 East Maple Avenue, Merchantville, New Jersey. This marks the first such installation at a church in the town of 3,500 residents adjacent to Pennsauken and Cherry Hill.
The panels were installed by Powell Energy & Solar of Moorestown. The panels will reduce electricity purchases by approximately 60%, and under the contract save the church about 30% on its electric bills. The other half of the savings, as well as a Federal Tax credit of 30% on installation costs, will go to Maple Avenue Power Associates, a totally-separate power provider that has been formed. Under the fifteen-year agreement Grace will lease its roof space for the panels, and the power provider will earn solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs). The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kirk, Rector of Grace and a civil engineering graduate of Lehigh University, said, “We would like to have moved quicker to be more efficient and reduce our carbon footprint, but New Jersey added so much solar power in 2011 that SREC prices collapsed from $650 to $150 per kilowatt hour. This made the economics of solar power far less attractive. Still, we believe the project will pay for itself in 6-7 years.” Currently, efforts are underway in the state legislature to revise the regulatory scheme administered by the Board of Public Utilities.
Kirk added, “New Jersey is a victim of its own success in attracting solar power installations that fully satisfied the state’s annual Renewable Production Standard (RPS). Until the RPS was met in 2011, the public utilities were charged a fee for any shortfall in renewable energy production. The fee provided a solid floor for SREC prices. Now that the RPS has been met, market forces govern SREC pricing. Unless SREC prices are stabilized at a reasonable level of at least $300-400, it will be challenging to finance solar projects, even as the ill effects of air pollution and global warming stare us in the face.”