BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Solar energy primed to power NJ’s business sector

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Amazon’s 30-acre rooftop is filled with solar panels for as far as the eye can see. The e-commerce behemoth boasts the biggest solar field in the Garden State.

“Amazon is committed to innovation on behalf of our customers,” said Lauren Lynch, spokesperson for Amazon.

The company says capturing the renewable energy is about passing savings on to its millions of customers by lowering operating costs inside the humongous center that processes orders. Depending on the time of year, the panels could generate as much as 80 percent of the center’s annual energy needs.

There are 22,000 panels on top of the Amazon fulfillment center in Carteret. How big is that? Enough to fit six MetLife Stadiums on its rooftop.

Scott White, president and CEO of IGS Energy, says the solar installation can power 1,000 homes a year. IGS Energy owns the panels and the energy they produce and sells it to Amazon.

“It’s about 20-25 percent cheaper than energy they buy off the grid,” White said. “So, they’re going to consume the power that we produce over the next 15 years without putting any of their own capital up or any risk of the maintenance or failure of the panels. That would be our responsibility.”

A local company provided all the panels and labor. Amazon encourages its employees to get certified for jobs in in-demand, growing fields by paying for 95 percent of their books and tuition.

“So, you can presumably work at Amazon for a year in the fulfillment center, picking and packing customers’ orders and take a career choice course, get training and become a solar installer,” explained Lynch.

If the panels were lights, they would have lit up when Congressman Frank Pallone flipped the symbolic switch. Pallone says it’s smart for both the federal and state governments to offer tax incentives.

“As more and more of these fields and solar panels are produced the costs come down and, at some point, we may not have to do these subsidies,” the congressman explained. “But right now we have to in order to encourage this type of facility. It’s important for the environment to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change.”

Project developer Sol Systems says it’s beginning to cost less to go solar as prices for panels come down.

“It’s indicative of the future of energy in this country,” said Sol System CEO Yuri Horwitz. “It’s a promise we made to our generation to change the way we procure and use energy. It’s a beautiful, elegant picture of what that future looks like.”

Before Amazon’s grand unveiling, another company unveiled nearly 4,100 solar panels at its Carteret headquarters and said it equates to taking 170 cars off the road for one year.

Sol Systems says going solar has become so popular it’s now competing directly with natural gas and other forms of energy in a world well aware of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.