PSE&G President Sees Utility’s Role as Vital in Rollout of Solar

PSE&G got a significant amount of money, more than $440 million, from the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to spend on projects. Ralph LaRossa, President and COO of PSE&G, told NJ Today Mike Schneider that $247 million of that amount will be spent just on direct installations.

The company’s focus right now, in terms of solar, LaRossa says, is putting solar farms on landfills and brownfields.

“Better use of that land rather than just sitting there,” he said. “We’ve also started here in the Meadowlands, specifically in Kearny, where we’ve started to find some of the capped landfills … and we’ve put the solar farms on top of those landfill sites and now we’re starting to generate electricity.”

As a state and as a society, the roll-out of solar is an important part of supporting renewable energy and PSE&G wants to align its interest with that objective in mind, says LaRossa.

“What’s really going to come into play for us as an industry as a whole though when we look across the nation is how much renewables can we bring into the electric grid. It’s a much different resource to plan for as someone who has to distribute and worry about the reliability,” explained LaRossa. “Cloud cover comes over, you have a solar drop off. If we have wind farms that are popping up in different locations, the wind stops you have to have other generation. Electricity is a little different because you don’t have storage.”

According to LaRossa, some of the earlier solar panels deployed may have been problematic but that American consumers are now benefiting from early solar adopters in Europe.

“They really got out in front of the curve quite a bit. I’m glad they did it. We haven’t done it, so it’s helping our consumers. But so far, the installations we’ve had have all been staying up and running, and even during Hurricane Sandy, the pole top units performed really well.”

As prices of solar panels continue to drop, LaRossa says PSE&G’s role as the middleman will no longer be needed.

“If prices continue to drop and solar proliferates throughout the entire commercial and residential communities, maybe our program is not needed in the future,” LaRossa said.

But that doesn’t mean, utilities like PSE&G will become obsolete.

“PSE&G is still gonna be there to deliver power,” said LaRossa. “You have intermittent resources here in solar and wind and other renewable projects. We’re still gonna have to be there for that backup power for homes and for businesses.”