Due to a substantial increase in the number of applicants, residents of Our Fair State now have to wait up to a year for approval for state rebates and installations of solar panels. There are also questions about the sustainability of the rebate program:
Once a fledgling, pie-in-the sky effort that helped fund only a half-dozen systems in its first year in business, New Jersey's Customer Onsight Renewable Energy (CORE) rebate program has become a national model of success, giving out more than $75 million to nearly 1,000 different projects in the first six months of 2006, and putting New Jersey second only to California in installed solar capacity.
It's also become a victim of its own success.
Today, there are now so many applicants the wait for approval is reaching one to two years, according to those in the solar energy industry. And that wait is scaring some people away.
“When you tell people the truth (about getting rebates), they feel like it may not ever happen,” says Patrick Sullivan, owner of Solar Power Concepts in Cape May County. “The phone calls coming into my company have been slow to none.”
On top of this, there is the looming question of whether or not the program will ever have the funding that is currently being promised.
While the Board of Public Utilities insists there will be money available to fund projects like Groff's, the Clean Energy Program states on its own Web site that the current rebate system simply isn't sustainable, given the mushrooming number of applicants.
To meet the state's clean energy goal of 20 percent by 2020, the Web site says, “this cost would be in the billions of dollars and would require an annual funding level of approximately $500,000,000,” raising electrical rates 5 to 7 percent. Several alternatives are being proposed, but none has yet to gain the upper hand.
It's a shame, but not too surprising. The amount of money we were given when we installed our panels was 70% of the total cost, and without that we coudn't have afforded it. Hopefully, a stable source of funding will be found, but I'm not holding my breath. Maybe we could ask Kuwait?