Dark Times for New Jersey’s Solar Industry

A promising source of renewable energy which relies heavily on government assistance is struggling to survive in New Jersey. Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with whom many consider the founding father of renewable energy legislation in New Jersey — CEO and President of Advanced Solar Products Lyle Rawlings — for an in-depth discussion of solar energy’s future in New Jersey.

According to Rawlings, the $1.3 billion dollar industry is at risk of losing at least 10,000 jobs this year unless the state intervenes.

The industry grew out of government incentives because solar energy is significantly more expensive to produce than fossil fuels. Rawlings says that government incentives are needed to make up the difference in cost to the industry.

The incentive program, he says, used a tradable market commodity design that was based on the premise that markets can set prices better than the government. This turned out not to be true, he says, because the incentives, which were very expensive, accelerated the industry so fast that it’s now oversupplied. He warns that without state intervention, that tradable commodity may crash in value.

According to Rawlings, there is no shortage of enthusiasm from financiers, banks and customers for solar products. He also adds that the industry is not lacking competitiveness, citing the decrease in cost of solar panels by 75 percent in the last three years.

He predicts that the industry will continue to depend on government incentives for many years to come because of the length of time needed to develop the technology, which began in New Jersey.

In addition to a temporary acceleration to address the current oversupply, Rawlings is also in favor of setting up government controls to prevent a similar situation from happening again.