Photo credit: (AP Photo / J Pat Carter)File Photo: A large number of solar panels are installed on a roof
New warehouses would have to have roofs for solar power plants once Governor Phil Murphy signs a bill that is supported by the legislature, the commercial real estate industry and even some opponents of the current warehouse boom in New Jersey.
The bill (A-3352) seeks to encourage more solar panels or thermal units in addition to the huge warehouses that are being built across the state. Proponents of solar energy see the trend as a golden opportunity for warehouse operators to cut or eliminate their utility bills and sell excess electricity back into the grid. All of the solar power generated would also help the state meet Murphy's goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.
The measure, which would apply to new warehouses of 100,000 square feet or more, was passed by a clear majority of 46-24 in the Assembly and 25-13 in the Senate in early June and will take effect once Murphy signs it.
MPs. James Kennedy (D-Middlesex), the main sponsor of the bill, said he expected Murphy to sign it but didn't know when that would happen. He said many lawmakers voted in favor because the bill creates incentives for zero-emission electricity and helps the state meet its clean energy goals. If it were to become law, the measure would generate the energy without being a visible mark on the landscape.
It makes a lot of sense
“Running solar on the roofs of these things makes a lot of sense,” said Kennedy. “It's non-invasive, as is the case in a landscape where you see these solar panels that are not characteristic of the area. You generate enough electricity to minimize electricity costs in the warehouse and the rest goes back into the grid, so a win-win situation.
“There is a cost to this, but you will get your money back. In some cases, you may have a $ 30,000 a month utility bill and all of a sudden you don't have one, ”he said.
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Mike McGuinness, CEO of NAIOP New Jersey, a trade association for commercial real estate developers, said his group supported the bill, noting that some of its members are already building solar-enabled warehouses.
McGuinness said warehouses with solar-enabled roofs are easier to rent than those without, but even the latter type would be “not a deal breaker” given the current strong demand for warehouse space in New Jersey. A solar roof is supplied with the infrastructure that enables the tenant to quickly install photovoltaic modules solar thermal units.
Developers are already being pressured by solar companies and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to install solar systems in their warehouses, McGuinness said. The solar companies generate revenue for themselves and the warehouse owners who can then potentially pass the cost savings on to tenants, he said. For the BPU part, she's promoting solar generation to help pursue New Jersey's clean energy goals.
The rise in e-commerce is driving warehouse development
A surge in e-commerce is fueling the scramble for warehouse space to store an avalanche of goods ordered online. Some new warehouses are being built on previously undeveloped land, prompting critics to warn against “expansion” of warehouses.
A survey by commercial real estate company Newmark found that north and central New Jersey leased 11.1 million square feet of warehouse space in the first quarter of 2021, the fastest growth in 20 years.
Micah Rasmussen, a Rider University professor who led a successful community campaign against a proposed warehouse in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County earlier this year, said the bill did not address concerns about urban sprawl or traffic congestion. But he said the prospect of solar-enabled warehouses is tastier than those that aren't.
“Using undeveloped land twice is better than using it once,” he said. “That doesn't mean that every project should be approved just because it's solar grade, but it does help serve a public cause like increasing our renewable energy production.”
If the bill becomes law, solar warehouse developers will argue that permits should be less stringent as the new buildings also serve a public purpose, Rasmussen predicted.
“I wouldn't go that far – these aren't schools or hospitals, after all,” he said. “But for me it is better to get a public value from the development of undeveloped areas than none at all.”