Buying solar panels in NJ?
June 11, 2019 5:35 AM   Subscribe

What are the pros and cons of purchasing solar panels in New Jersey?

We are seriously considering purchasing solar panels for our home in New Jersey. I love the idea of getting our electricity from the sun and this all seems like a win-win for everyone involved... But it is a huge investment and I want to make sure that I’m not missing anything important before we commit. We would be purchasing a large system (~60 panels) that should produce all of the electricity that we need. The company we are looking to work with has good reviews and a 25 year warranty on the panels and any necessary service or repairs. Our roof is young and not an issue. The company has measured our roof, checked out surrounding trees, and planned a layout that is only on the back of our house (and therefore shouldn’t be too much of an aesthetic turnoff to buyers if we ever want to sell). We would be getting a loan through the solar company for the cost of the panels/installation/etc, but getting back 30% of the cost as a tax credit. It looks like the SRECs we would earn for the next 10 years would likely cover the monthly cost of the loan during that time, and we might even make a little profit. And once the loan is paid off - free electricity! If and when we sell the house someday, we would likely pay off any remaining balance on the loan and leave the panels, so any buyer would be getting free electricity.

Are SRECs taxable in NJ? Are they projected to rise or fall in coming years with the sundowning of the program in NJ (or is it not possible to forecast this?)? What are the pros and cons that I might be missing?

I would particularly love feedback from folks in NJ who have owned panels for a couple of years.
posted by amro to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of variables in terms of how economically viable solar panels are. These include:

SYSTEM COST: What you are paying for your installation?

What is the inclination of your roof in relation to the typical angle of the sun where you live?
How close to South the roof is facing in your N. hemisphere location? (Generally speaking. There are some places where off due south can be better but don't worry much about that, but I have seen some ropey installations on north facing roofs where I live so there are cowboys out there).

What's the level of the subsidy per unit? OR How much is the tax credit?
How long will the subsidy run for from when you first get it?
How much do you pay your utility per unit of energy you use currently? (Because this is the cost you will be displacing with the electricity you generate.)
How much of the PV power you generate will you use and how much will go to the grid?
If power goes to the grid, do you get extra subsidy for it? (If not, then can you rearrange your consumption to the day time to max out how much you knock off your current bill?)

You might be able to work out some answers using this data in RETscreen, the 'expert' version is free from the Government of Canada and lets people play around with the variables to work out viability of renewables projects.
posted by biffa at 9:49 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

We moved to our current home in Ocean County NJ near LBI 3 years ago, and the house we bought already had the panels in place and they were completely paid off by the house owner before we purchased. The installer was Sunrun and they're fantastic to deal with and are very accessible via phone or email; we had many questions about SRECs after moving into the house. Unless the law has changed since last year, SRECS in NJ are taxable.
posted by the webmistress at 10:59 AM on June 11

We got panels installed in Philadelphia recently and were very jealous of the state incentives available in NJ - if I recall correctly, they're one of the best states in terms of the rates they pay on SRECs. Also, that 30% federal tax credit is expiring this year, so they won't likely be any cheaper anytime soon.

It looks like the SRECs we would earn for the next 10 years would likely cover the monthly cost of the loan during that time, and we might even make a little profit.

Not only that. You also won't have an electric bill to pay, don't forget. And solar adds value to a house even if you move out before the loan is paid off.

(We did the math on this in our rowhouse and our roof has room to install only enough panels to will produce about half of our electricity needs. And our SRECS suck in PA. And we'll still be fine financially. Even until we pay off the loan, the loan payments + electric bill will be about what we used to pay just to the electric company. After the loan's paid off, we still have a cheaper electric bill + SRECs.)
posted by catesbie at 2:03 PM on June 11

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