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Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains frequently asked questions regarding the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.

If you have a question about the Pilot Program that has not been answered below, please submit it to communitysolar@njcleanenergy.com. NJBPU staff will endeavor to respond to your inquiry via a response posted on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions are grouped by the following subject areas; you can jump to any section by clicking on one of the topics below:
Pilot Program Rules and General Updates
Filing an Application
Program Year 2 Application Form Questions and Attachments
Siting and Permitting

Application Scoring and Selection
Special Authorizations and Exceptions
Low and Moderate Income
Interconnection
Community Solar Bill Credits
Incentives: SRECs, TRECs and Successor Program
Project Milestones
Subscribers
Other

Pilot Program Rules and General Updates

Where can I find the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules?

The Pilot Program rules are available here.

I heard that Board has proposed rule amendments to the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules. Where can I find the proposed rule amendments, and when will they become effective? If approved, will they also apply to Program Year 1 projects?

On October 2, 2020, the Board approved the publication of two proposed rule amendments to the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program (Docket No. QX20090577 and QX20090594). The two rule proposals were published in the New Jersey Register on November 16, 2020. Comments on each proposed rule amendment must be submitted separately, no later than January 15, 2021. Upon the close of the public comment period on January 15, 2021, the proposed rule amendments will return to the Board for further consideration and/or adoption.

These proposed rule amendments will not become effective until approved by the Board. However, if approved, they will apply to all projects participating in the Pilot Program, including Program Year 1 projects.

The proposed rule amendments are available at the following links:  QX20090577 and QX20090594.

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Filing an Application

Where can I find the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Application Form?

The Application Form for Program Year 2 of the Pilot Program is available to view as a sample template here.

Please note: Staff is currently developing a new online application portal, which will be available soon. At that time, Staff will provide instructions on how to submit an Application via the portal. DO NOT submit an Application using the PDF document linked above. The PDF Application Form is provided only to allow stakeholders to review the Application Form questions and requirements; it cannot be used to submit an Application. Applications must be submitted via the portal.

When is the deadline for submitting an Application Form?

As approved by the Board at its October 2, 2020 Agenda meeting (Docket No.  QO18060646 and QO20080556), the Application deadline for Program Year 2 is February 5, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. E.T.

How do I submit my application to NJBPU?

Staff is currently developing a new online application portal, which will be available soon. Applicants should submit their applications via the online portal only. Staff will provide instructions on how to submit an application once the portal is available. Please subscribe to the community solar listserv to stay informed of the latest updates.

Do I need to answer every question? Can I leave a section blank if I don’t know the answer?

Applicants are required to answer all questions unless it is explicitly marked as optional. Also, all signatures are required, unless explicitly marked as optional. An Application will be deemed administratively complete only if: 1) all questions are completed, except those explicitly marked as optional, 2) all required attachments are included, and 3) all required signatures are included. Only Applications that are administratively complete by the close of the Application Period will be considered for participation in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program during the current Application Period. Please note that Applicants will not be notified as to whether an Application is deemed administratively complete or incomplete until all Applications are reviewed following the close of the Application Period on February 5, 2021.

Is there a fee to submit an Application?

There is no fee for submitting an Application.

I want to keep certain information on the Application private. How do I do so?

All applications will be public, unless you submit a redacted copy of your application, together with the unredacted copy, with a notarized affidavit stating the reasons why the information is confidential, at the time you submit your application. Instructions on how to submit a redacted copy of the application will be provided in the online application portal.

Can I submit more than one Application Form?

There is no limit to the number of Application Forms that can be submitted by any one Applicant. However, note that you cannot apply for more than one project per Application Form. Each proposed project requires the submission of an individual Application Form. Additionally, do not submit the same project (i.e., same Applicant name and project location) multiple times or with various sizes.

Who can submit an Application Form?

There are no restrictions as to who can submit an Application Form. For example, an Applicant may be a project developer, project owner, project operator, municipality, contractor, installer, site owner, etc. However, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.3, NJBPU staff will not accept applications for Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs) to develop, own, or operate community solar projects.

Can an existing solar project apply to participate in the Pilot Program?

No, an existing solar project may not apply to requalify as a community solar project. An existing solar project, as defined in N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.2, means a solar project having begun operation and/or been approved by the Board for designation as connected to the distribution system prior to February 19, 2019. Projects that received a subsection (r), subsection (s) or subsection (t) conditional certification from the Board prior to February 19, 2019 should refer to the Application Form for additional information about special circumstances.

What happens if I submit an incomplete application?

An incomplete Application will not be considered for participation in this Application Period. It may be amended and resubmitted during the next Application Period without advantage or disadvantage.

Will Applications filed with NJBPU early (i.e., prior to the February 5, 2021 deadline) be at an advantage or disadvantage compared to other Applications?

There is no advantage or disadvantage to filing an Application prior to the February 5 deadline. All Applications will be reviewed and evaluated together following the close of the Application Period. No Application or part of an Application will be reviewed prior to the close of the Application Period on February 5.

Applicants are responsible for submitting their Application(s) by the deadline. Applicants should allow for sufficient time to complete and submit the online form. Applicants should also account for the potential for high web traffic on or around February 5, 2021. NJBPU is not responsible for website delays or technical difficulties experienced by Applicants.

Can NJBPU provide advice regarding my project? Can I speak with a member of NJBPU staff regarding my project?

No. NJBPU staff cannot provide any individual guidance regarding a specific project or Application. Please submit any questions to communitysolar@njcleanenergy.com. Staff will endeavor to respond to your question via this Frequently Asked Questions page.

Are there penalties for withdrawing a project from the Pilot Program after it has been approved by the Board? Are penalties applied if the withdrawal is for cause?

There are currently no Board-imposed penalties for withdrawing a project from the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program after it has been approved by the Board.

I would like to apply for multiple community solar projects across the State. Can I submit them all in one application?

No. Do not apply for more than one project per Application Form. Please see the “Instructions for Completing the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Application Form” section in the Application Form for further information.

Can a project located in a municipal utility (e.g., Madison, NJ) apply to participate in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program?

No. The Pilot Program is only open to projects located in the service territory of one of the four electric distribution companies (PSE&G, JCP&L, Atlantic City Electric, or Rockland Electric). Municipal utilities may develop their own community solar programs, at their discretion.

For the Year 2 applications due on February 5, 2021, the Application Form asks for original signatures but the entire application seems to be online through the new portal.  Should originally signed certifications be mailed to the BPU? (added 01.27.21)

Please scan your original certifications and include them in your complete application form PDF (please see the instructions for additional details on how to organize and create the PDF). You do not need to mail in the original certifications.

We intend to submit both a public (redacted) and confidential version of applications. Will it cause any issues for your review if we include the confidentiality affidavit as the first page of the confidential/unredacted PDF?  Or would you prefer we sent the affidavit separately? (added 01.27.21)

Please include the affidavit and request for confidential treatment within the PDF of the application for which you are requesting confidential treatment. This will ensure that these confidentiality requests are directly associated with the correct application (this will be particularly important if you intend to submit applications for multiple projects).

In creating the single PDF Application Form, can you confirm that we do not have to include the following two documents? Step 1b in the Instructions seems to omit these in describing how to combine the application:
•    “PY2 Application Form Requirements, Instructions, Terms and Conditions”
•    “PY2 Appendices”
(added 02.02.21)

Correct, do not attach either of the documents that are identified on the website as “PY2 Application Form Terms and Conditions” and “PY2 Appendices.” You may attach Appendix B, the Required Attachments Checklist, if you wish, but are not required to do so, as that checklist is primarily provided for your information.

Will there be any chance to remedy or cure community solar applications submitted into Program Year 2 that might have mistakes, deficiencies, or need clarification or corrections? (added 02.02.21)

No, there will not be an opportunity to revise your application past the February 5 deadline. The Board will be reviewing applications as they were submitted as of the deadline.

Can we add a cover page or introduction at the front of the application? (added 02.02.21)

Yes, you may add a cover page or narrative description of your projects, but please do so in the attachments section (after the Product Offering Questionnaire and the list of attachments). The first page of your PDF application should be the first page of the fillable Application Form (Section B: Community Solar Energy Project Description).

Would the Board consider extending the deadline for submitting an application to PY2? (added 02.02.21)

The Board is not considering extending the deadline for PY2 applications at this time. Please reach out to communitysolar@njcleanenergy.com if you have questions or concerns about how to fill out the application.

Is it permissible to submit the applications as fully confidential before the deadline and then, after the deadline, submit public versions of the applications which will be identical but with all confidential/private information redacted for public viewing? (added 02.02.21)

No. If you intend to file a public redacted version of your application, both the public and confidential (non-redacted) versions must be submitted by the February 5 application deadline.

When submitting confidential applications, does each application require an accompanying official letter explaining the request for confidential treatment? (added 02.02.21)

Yes. Include the letter and affidavit requesting confidential treatment in the confidential version of the application.

Regarding uploading redacted/confidential versions on the Portal, it seems the “Public” upload would be the one with redactions (inasmuch as that is the version that would be shared with the public); whereas the “Confidential” upload would be the unredacted document, with “confidentiality” labels and the supporting affidavit/documentation explaining the basis for confidentiality (i.e., this is the version the BPU would see without any redactions). However, the instructions in the Board’s January 20, 2021 email could be interpreted as the opposite: “Step 1d (optional): Create a confidential version of the PDF by redacting any information you wish to keep confidential.” This instruction could be read to mean that the “confidential version” should contain redactions, which would mean the “public” version would have no redactions (which would defeat the purpose). To summarize, is it correct that (1) the “Public” upload on the Portal should be redacted and (2) the “Confidential” upload on the Portal should be unredacted and should contain the affidavit and substantiation of confidentiality? (added 02.02.21)

Correct. If you are requesting confidential treatment of certain elements in your application, you will upload two versions of the completed PDF Application Form: 1) the “Public” version of the Application Form, which is redacted, and 2) the “Confidential” version of the Application Form, which is unredacted. Include the affidavit and substantiation of confidentiality in the “Confidential” version of your application. The two documents should be identical, other than the redactions in the “Public” version and the inclusion of the affidavit and substantiation of confidentiality in the “Confidential” version. When uploading your application to the e-Filing Portal, make sure that you are uploading the correct version of the application to the relevant folder (confidential to the “Confidential” folder, public to the “Public” folder). We apologize for any confusion caused by the Instructions, which we have since clarified.

I will not be requesting confidential treatment or redactions to any portion of my application. Should I be filing my application as “public” or “confidential”?
(added 02.03.21)

If you are not requesting confidential treatment of your application, please upload it as “public”. If you are requesting confidential treatment of any part of your application, please upload the redacted version as “public” and the unredacted version as “confidential”. The BPU cannot accept any application that is only filed as “confidential”.

There was a webinar on February 3, 2021 on the process to upload applications to the NJBPU e-Filing portal. Where can I find a recording of this webinar? (added 02.04.21)

The recording is available at the following link: https://youtu.be/CU2t9cGwnto.

When uploading an application that will have redacted information, is the following process correct: Redacted copy is uploaded to “PARTY UPLOAD PUBLIC” and the full searchable un-redacted version uploaded “PARTY UPLOAD – CONFIDENTIAL”. (added 02.04.21)

That is correct.

When redacting an application, can we print it out and black out certain information, then upload a scanned version? This would ensure no one would be able to edit the blacked out area. (added 02.04.21)

Yes.

Is there a preference on a method or way for redacting information? (added 02.04.21)

No. It is the responsibility of the applicant to redact the information in such a way that it will not be reversed.

If including a spreadsheet that needs to be redacted, how is that performed? (added 02.04.21)

All spreadsheets should be saved as a PDF and included in the application as an attachment. You should be able to redact it as a PDF.

Can NJBPU provide a template request for confidential treatment and affidavit? (added 02.04.21)

No. Each request for confidential treatment and affidavit should be unique to the application in question, and meet the Board’s rules at N.J.A.C. 14:1-12.1 et seq.

Regarding the confidential and public document classifications, are redactions in attachments to the application, for example, in a lease document as proof of site control considered confidential (and therefore necessitate the submission of both public and confidential versions)? Or do we only need to submit a public and confidential version of the application if we would like to make redactions in the application form itself? (added 02.04.21)

The public version of a document is the entire application with the confidential portions redacted, i.e., blacked out, and the confidential version is the entire application without any redactions.  Redactions can be made to confidential information that the applicant has entered into the BPU application form, as well as confidential information contained in supplemental application documents. If you are requesting confidential treatment for any portion of your application, including any of the attachments, you must follow the proper procedure for requesting confidential treatment, including submitting both a public and confidential version of the application along with an affidavit and a request for confidential treatment.

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Program Year 2 Application Form Questions and Attachments

What is the "delineated map" as required to be submitted on page 10 of the application form?

A delineated map is a map of the proposed community solar project site, on which the Applicant has clearly indicated the boundaries of the proposed community solar array (placement of the panels).

Please clarify the required information in the Property Owner Certification Form: I, ____(name) am the ____(title) of the Property ____(name) and have been authorized to file this Applicant Certification on behalf of my organization.

Field #1 (Name): This is the Property Owner, or Property Owner's representative's name.
Field #2 (Title): This is the relationship between the individual named in Field #1 and the property (e.g., "Property Owner").
Field #3 (Name): This is an identification of the property e.g. name or address.

In the Property Owner Certification Form, the sentence “I […] have been authorized to file this Applicant Certification on behalf of my organization” seems to imply that the Property Owner is the applicant on behalf of an organization. Is this form needed if the Property Owner is not the Applicant?

Yes, this is a required form, whether or not the Property Owner is the Applicant. The Property Owner may be an organization (in which case, the signatory must be authorized to file the Certification on behalf of said organization) or an individual (in which case, the signatory is filing the Certification on their own behalf).

The Certifications on pages 25-29 of the Application Form require a notary. Does that have to be a New Jersey notary, or can it be a notary in another state?

The Certifications can be notarized by a notary in a state other than New Jersey.

Our company will be using a special-purpose vehicle (“SPV”) name for our NJ Community Solar applications. The SPV is a subsidiary owned by our company. Please verify who should be the respective Applicant, Project Owner, and Solar Developer.

Staff cannot provide guidance as to who should be indicated in the “Applicant,” “Project Owner,” and “Solar Developer” fields, as these will vary from project to project. Applicants should complete this section as best they are able.

On page 8, Section B. II. Community Solar Project Owner, can we leave the section blank and still be considered a complete Application? What do we do if we do not know who the owner entity will be at this time?

All sections and questions must be answered, except those explicitly marked as optional. You cannot leave Section B. II. Community Solar Project Owner blank. Please see the Question “Do I need to answer every question?” for more information. Please note that, pursuant to the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.11(b), the owner of a project can change over time; the Board must be notified in writing within 30 days of any change to the project developer, owner, or operator in case of sale, transfer, contract modification, or other material change to the parties initially listed in the community solar Application.

The PY2 Application Form contains certifications and attachments that must be notarized. Has this notary requirement been waived during the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency? (added 12.07.20)

The notary requirement has not been waived during the ongoing public health emergency. However, the Board is able to accept remote notary approval during this time. Information on e-filing can be found here.

Can I provide a separate document to expand on sections in the application where I don’t have enough space to input my response fully? If so, how and where this document should be included in the application? (added 01.27.21)

Yes, you may include a separate document as an attachment to expand on responses in the Application Form if the Form does not provide sufficient space. For ease of NJBPU review, please state in the text box that is in the original Application Form that you have provided an attachment with further information. Please clearly identify in the attachment itself which question in the Application Form it is referencing. As a reminder, we ask that you also include a list of all attachments immediately after the Product Offering Questionnaire, and before any attachments.

The Application Form states that the NJDEP Permit Readiness Checklist is not required if the project is on a rooftop or a parking lot area. However, the Required Attachment Checklist in Appendix B states that the Permit Readiness Checklist is required for all projects. Please clarify? (added 01.27.21)

Pursuant to the Application Form, Section VIII, Question 1, the requirement to complete and submit an NJDEP Permit Readiness Checklist applies only to ground mounted and floating solar projects. Community solar projects located on a rooftop, parking lot, or parking structure are exempt from this requirement.

We had a structural engineer onsite at our proposed community solar rooftop project. He indicated that, based on the building’s age and the snow load requirements at the time, we have the additional capacity in the roof to take the weight of the proposed solar installation.  Would that assessment from an onsite structural engineer be adequate for the application? Or do we need to complete a much more expensive structural engineering review? (added 01.27.21)

The Application Form, Section VII (Community Solar Facility Siting), Question 10 requires that if the proposed community solar facility is located, in part or in whole, on a rooftop, the Applicant must verify that the roof is structurally able to support a solar system. Generally speaking, NJBPU expects to see that developers have made a good faith effort to ensure that the roof is able to support the solar system, and provide substantiating evidence of such efforts. A statement from an independent structural engineer would likely meet that requirement; however, each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and NJBPU Staff cannot provide preemptive guarantees.

Will NJBPU accept a single letter of community support for multiple project sites within the same municipality? The portfolio of sites in the municipality has the same ownership and are being submitted by the same solar developer. (added 01.27.21)

Please see the requirements of the Application Form in Section X: Community Engagements. Specifically, the Application Form states that “Documentation must be specific to the project described in this Application; ‘generic’ documentation of support that applies to multiple projects submitted by the same Applicant will not be accepted.”

The PY2 Application Form requires submission of several certifications, which must be notarized. Due to COVID-19, is this notary requirement lifted? (added 01.27.21)

Certifications must be notarized. However, NJBPU will accept remote notary approval, per legislation concerning remote notarial acts. Link: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/A4000/3903_R1.PDF.

We intend to develop ongoing collaboration with some affordable housing provider sites and also conduct job training opportunities there as well. Our project will be a LMI project. In the Community Engagement category, if we plan to provide job trainings to affordable housing providers in the community, is it specifically required that the affordable housing sites where we are doing the trainings also are receiving offtaker credits? Or could those be different sites/entities? (added 01.27.21)

The job training component of your Application does not necessarily need to be directly tied to the project’s potential subscribers.

Can parties to an application (e.g. project owner or property owner) be changed after a project receives an award from the Board? (added 01.27.21)

Yes, parties to an Application can be changed, subject to notification to the Board. The notification requirements are described in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.11. Please note that the signed and notarized Certifications submitted as part of the Application must reflect the current party (e.g., current owner) as of the date of submission of the Application.

I am working with an organization that, for a number of procedural reasons, is not able to provide letters of support for my project before the February 5, 2021 deadline. Can the organization email BPU directly to express their support for my project? (added 02.02.21)

Page 2 of the Application Form states the following: “Attachments must be submitted as part of the Application Form via the online application process. The Board will not accept documentation sent directly to the Board.” As such, we are unable to accept any forms of support not included with the application itself. Please describe the current state of support in the application process, and the Evaluation Committee will consider it based upon that evidence. All applicants are under the same restriction, in the interest of fairness and transparency.

In the case where the application includes a contract to sell the property, who signs the property owner certification, the current owner or the entity that is contracted to buy the property? (added 02.02.21)

The answer depends on who has the agreement with the solar developer: the current owner or the contract buyer? If the current owner has the deal with the developer, then the current owner typically signs. Often these deals will get assigned to the new owner if the deal actually goes through. If the contract buyer has the deal with the solar developer, then the contract buyer typically signs as a contract buyer (because they cannot sign as owner), in which case the application must also include a “property owner certification” that states that the contract buyer has the owner’s consent to file the application.

The certifications require an original signature. Would something like DocuSign (electronic signature) work or would we need to sign the forms in ink and then scan and upload them? (added 02.02.21)

As the Board has not explicitly allowed the use of electronic signatures such as DocuSign, the original signatures must be wet signatures that are scanned and uploaded as part of the application.

The Terms and Conditions are very clear that you need to answer every question, unless it is specifically marked “optional.” This means that, unless the question specifically says “optional,” applicants should check “no” to questions, even if they are not applicable, correct? For example, Section VII #9 asks “If the proposed community solar facility is located, in part or in whole, on an area of historic fill, have the remedial investigation requirements pursuant to the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation, N.J.A.C. 7:26E-4.7 been implemented?” This is not applicable to a project not on historic fill; but based on the Terms and Conditions, it seems a project that is not located on historic fill should still answer the question (because it is not marked “optional”), in which case the applicant should answer “no.” Is that correct? (added 02.02.21)

Correct, if the question about projects on an area of historic fill does not apply to your project, you may answer “no” to that question.

Can my application include more than one subscriber organization? (added 02.02.21)

Yes. Please include a separate certification for each of the community solar subscriber organizations you are including in your application.

Section XI, Question 1 tells us to attach substantiating evidence of cost estimates “in the form of an unlocked Excel spreadsheet model.” However, the instructions for submitting applications require submitting everything in PDF form. To my knowledge, we can’t put an unlocked/usable Excel spreadsheet into a PDF. Should we just create a PDF of the Excel and include that (in which case it will not be an unlocked Excel spreadsheet)? (added 02.02.21)

Yes, create a PDF of the Excel cost spreadsheet and include is as an attachment to your application. You are correct that it will not be an unlocked Excel spreadsheet. We apologize for the confusion.

How would you define "local community organizations"? Is this limited to non-profits or community type businesses, or can it be any business, including private businesses such a grocery store or restaurant? (added 02.02.21)

The term “local community organizations” is not defined in the Application Form; however, staff anticipates that it is intended to refer to non-profits or other organizations that provide a benefit or service to the local community. We encourage you to provide all relevant information regarding any proposed partnership, NJBPU will carefully review all documentation relating to partnerships or collaboration with local community organizations submitted as part of the applications.

Is there a minimum size for a battery system in order to receive full points in that category? (added 02.02.21)

The Application Form does not specify a minimum required size for a battery system.

Section VII “Permits”, Question 3 states: “An Application that does not list all permits, approvals, or other authorizations that will be needed for the construction and operation of the proposed community solar facility will be deemed incomplete.” Can you confirm that the applicant is required to provide the list as a separate attachment? (added 02.02.21)

Please provide the list of permits, approvals, or other authorizations in the chart provided in Question 3. If there is not enough space in the chart, you may provide additional explanations in an attachment.

In Section IX “Community Solar Subscriptions and Subscribers”, Question 6, do you have specific expectations or examples of what other “specific, substantial, identifiable, and quantifiable long-term benefits from the community solar subscription…being passed through to their [affordable housing provider’s] residents/tenants” besides a discounted price? And if so, would you be able to share them? (added 02.02.21)

NJBPU does not have specific guidance on this matter. Please answer to the best of your ability, based on the particulars of the project you are proposing.

In Section IX “Community Solar Subscriptions and Subscribers”, Question 4 asks about a clear plan for effective and respectful customer engagement, but does not ask for the developer to provide the plan as part of the application process. Does NJBPU expect to receive this plan or will it be sufficient to state that a plan is in place?
(added 02.02.21)

Question 4, Section IX requires that any applicant who states they have a clear plan for effective and respectful customer engagement provide substantiating evidence in an attachment. NJBPU will evaluate the proposed customer engagement plan based on the information provided in the application.

In Section IX “Community Solar Subscriptions and Subscribers”, Question 9, the geographic restrictions apply to the project rather than the subscription. Is the preference of NJBPU to have geographic restrictions on projects or is the preference to ensure projects in specific utility territories serve specific priority communities, e.g., a project in the county serving customers in a restricted urban community?
(02.02.21)

The geographic limit applies to projects by limiting the geographic area from which it can sign up subscribers. Projects that draw subscribers from nearer to the project receive higher preference in the Evaluation Criteria.

In Section XI “Project Cost”, Question 1 asks for substantiating evidence in a spreadsheet. Can you elaborate? What particular data you want to see? (added 02.04.21)

Question 1 in Section XI asks for substantiating evidence of the good faith estimate of costs requested in the chart included in that question: net installed cost (in $), net installed cost (in $/Watt), initial customer acquisition cost (in $/Watt), annual customer churn rate (in %), annual operating expenses (in c/kWh), and levelized cost of energy (in c/kWh). 

In Section VII “Community Solar Facility Siting”, Question 6 asks whether a facility is located in the New Jersey Highlands Planning Area or Preservation Area, or the New Jersey Pinelands. The application makes clear every question must be answered, and recently the FAQ has clarified that even if a question doesn’t apply to the project, applicant should submit ‘no’ as an answer. Question 6, however, is not a yes or no question and instead requires applicants to check a box if either applies. How should a project answer Question 6 under Section VII if neither option is applicable? (02.04.21)

For Question 6 in Section VII “Community Solar Facility Siting”, if neither option applies, leave both check boxes blank.

If a ground-mounted project was either fully permitted, or at a minimum, all permits had been applied for, does it still need to submit a completed OPPN Permit Readiness Checklist? (added 02.04.21)

Yes, an NJDEP Permit Readiness Checklist is still required. Pursuant to the Application Form, Section VIII, Question 1, projects must complete and include an NJDEP Permit Readiness Checklist as an attachment to the application, except if the proposed project is located on a rooftop, parking lot, or parking structure.
 
We had previously received signed property owner certifications under Section C using an earlier version of the Year 2 Community Solar Application that was recently updated in the electronic portal. The certifications contain the same exact content, except that the page numbers differ from the most current version of the application. Will these certifications, if otherwise completely and correctly submitted, still be acceptable for the Board? (added 02.04.21)

Yes.

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Siting and Permitting

Does the Application Form require a meeting with the NJDEP Office of Permitting and Project Navigation (“OPPN”, formerly the Office of Permit Coordination and Environmental Review)?

Unlike in Program Year 1, Applicants projects are not required to meet with NJDEP’s OPPN prior to submitting an Application to the Board. Applicants may request a meeting with the OPPN to identify permits or other potential issues, but doing so is not a prerequisite in the PY2 Application process. If you meet with OPPN, please include a copy of the meeting notes or correspondence with OPPN as an attachment to your Application Form.

Exception: Applicants for floating community solar projects are required to meet with the OPPN prior to submitting an Application. Applicants are responsible for requesting a meeting sufficiently in advance of the Application deadline to ensure that the meeting is able to occur prior to the Application submission deadline.

Further information regarding the NJDEP OPPN, including contact information, is available here.

Does the Application Form require the submission of a complete OPPN Permit Readiness Checklist?

Yes. Applicants are required to submit a complete OPPN Permit Readiness Checklist as an attachment to their Application. However, Applicants are not required to submit the OPPN Permit Readiness Checklist to OPPN prior to submitting an Application (except in the case of floating community solar projects). The Evaluation Committee will submit the Checklists of shortlisted Applications directly to NJDEP prior to presenting the list of project scores to the Board.

The Permit Readiness Checklist is available here.

Where can I find out which sites are preserved, non-preserved, within a municipal boundary, etc.?

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Energy and Sustainability has developed a mapping tool to help Applicants site community solar arrays. Please note that this tool is provided for informational purposes only, and will not be used by NJBPU in the evaluation of Applications. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all information submitted as part of their Application, including information pertaining to the proposed project site, is accurate. Applications that contain inaccurate siting information may be deemed incomplete and eliminated from further consideration.

Can a single project span multiple, adjacent buildings/rooftops as long as it is interconnected at a single meter and does not exceed the 5 MW system size limit?

See the definition of a community solar facility at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.2, the definition of a community solar project at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.2, and the rules at sections N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.4(h) and N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.5(b). Specific projects will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 1, Application Period 1.

Can a developer propose multiple 5 MW systems on the same site? If yes, can they be combined into one single interconnect or do they have to be separate interconnections in order to comply with the community solar regulations?

Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.4(j), a developer can submit applications for multiple co-located community solar facilities. However, specific rules apply. The developer must submit a separate Application Form for each individual project. The developer must fill out Section XIII, “Special Authorizations and Exemptions” justifying why the proposed co-location of projects can be approved by the Board, consistent with the provisions at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9. Each proposed project must be separately interconnected (see the definition of a community solar facility at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.2, the definition of a community solar project at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.2, and sections N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.4(h) and N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.5(b)). Specific projects will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2. Additional rules and regulations may apply. Please refer to the Pilot Program rules and Application Form for further details.

Is there a minimum size for a community solar project?

There is no minimum MW size for a community solar project. Please see the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9 for further information.

Can I build a net-metered and a community solar project on the same rooftop if they feed into separate meters?

Yes, so long as all the program rules and regulations for both net metering and community solar projects are met.

In section IX. “Community Solar Subscriptions and Subscribers,” Question 9 (pp. 17-18) asks “The geographic restriction for distance between project and subscribers is...” It then lists choices for geographic restrictions. Does this mean it is entirely up to the Applicant to determine where the subscribers are as long as it is in the same EDC territory? Or does the Applicant need to receive approval from the EDC for said geographic restriction?

The geographic restriction, i.e. the distance between the proposed community solar facility and its subscribers, is entirely at the discretion of the Applicant, so long as it is within the same EDC service territory. The Applicant does not need to receive approval from the EDC for said geographic restriction. Note that, if the project is approved for participation in the Pilot Program, the geographic restriction selected in the Application will apply for the lifetime of the project, barring special dispensation from the Board pursuant to N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.5(a).

Is the geographic distance between the proposed community solar project and its subscribers considered in the scoring of the project?

Yes. Please see the Evaluation Criteria identified in Appendix C of the Application Form.

Does the municipality where my proposed community solar project is sited need to be a subscriber to the project?

No. It is neither required nor forbidden for the municipality in which the community solar project is located to be a subscriber to that project. Please see the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9 for further information.

In a community solar project, who needs to own the land? Is it a municipality, or investors, or both?

There are no restrictions on who or what may own the land on which a community solar system is sited. For instance, it could be a municipality, individual, company, school, etc.

In order to demonstrate site control, will a Letter Agreement or Non-Binding Letter of Intent between the applicant and the Property Owner suffice?

Pursuant to the Application Form, Section B. VII. Community Solar Facility Siting, site control is defined as “property ownership or option to purchase, signed lease or option to lease, or signed contract for use as a community solar site or option to contract for use as a community solar site.” The site control must be specific to the project in the Application, and may not be contingent on the approval of another Application submitted in Program Year 2. No other documentation will be accepted as proof of site control.

Are ground mounted arrays located on standard commercial or industrial zoned property excluded from the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program?

Projects that are ground mounted arrays located on standard commercial or industrial zoned property are not excluded from the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. Please see the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.5 for additional details regarding community solar project siting requirements.

Section XIII Special Authorizations and Exemptions, Question 1 (page 22) requires the applicant to state whether the project will be co-located with another community solar project. If the applicant checks “yes” to this question and the Board reviews the application and decides to not allow co-location, does this determination render the application disqualified and ineligible from further consideration, or will the application continue to be eligible for review and possible award?

Pursuant to the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.4(j), “co-location of solar facilities shall be permitted, subject to specific review and permission by the Board through the application process.”

With regard to landfill projects in community solar, how does the Board determine the size of a landfill? (added 12.07.20)

Each applicant is expected to conduct due diligence on each landfill to determine its siting characteristics. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) maintains a list of landfills in New Jersey, available here. If you need more information, you can schedule an OPRA file review with NJDEP here. NJBPU will work closely with NJDEP in reviewing and verifying the siting characteristics for prospective community solar projects.

N.J.S.A. 48:3-87(s), which is referenced in the community solar statute, seems to block any proposed community solar facility that was located on assessed farmland at any point from 2002 through 2012 from being considered “connected to the distribution system” because the exceptions included in that subsection (s) were all time-limited and the opportunities to qualify under them have expired. Does this mean that proposed projects that are or were farmland assessed at any time within the 10-year period prior to the effective date of P.L.2012, c. 24 will be prohibited from applying under the permanent program? (added 12.07.20)

The permanent community solar program has not yet been developed and Staff cannot provide legal interpretation of statutes regarding the permanent program at this time. Please subscribe to the community solar listserv for updates on future stakeholder engagement on the development of the permanent program.

Is the 5MW size limit for a community solar project in DC or AC rating? (added 01.27.21)

DC rating. Please see the rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.4(g).

If we have a 7MW dc array, could we apply to the community solar program for a portion of the capacity (e.g. 5MW) to stay under the MW limit? (added 02.02.21)

A community solar project cannot exceed 5MWdc. The community solar project may be co-located (i.e., next to) another solar array, so long as you specifically explain in your application why the Board should approve the co-location. If a community solar project is co-located with another solar array, they must be two distinct projects (i.e., separately metered and operating individually). As a reminder, an existing project cannot apply to become a community solar project.

If a rooftop project is located on the roof of (i) a building that is on historic fill, (ii) a building that is on a brownfield, or (iii) a building on land with trees, does the applicant need to check “yes” to the corresponding questions asking whether the project is on “land” located on historic fill, brownfield, or property with trees? Or is the correct response for a rooftop project “no” on those questions? (added 02.02.21)

If the project is located only a roof, then check “yes” to the project being located on a roof and “no” to the other site types. If any portion of the project is on the ground, check “yes” on the appropriate site type.

Can the total project capacity (up to 5 MW) be met through a combination of one or more smaller sites, as long as the projects are all located in the same utility territory? (added 02.02.21)

No. Projects located at separate sites require separate applications. Do not apply for multiple projects in a single application.

The Application Form requires that, if the proposed community solar facility is located, in part or in whole, on a rooftop, the Applicant verifies that the roof is structurally able to support a solar system (Question 10, Section VII, “Community Solar Facility Siting”). What is considered “substantiating evidence”? Are you requiring an actual stamped and approved engineering letter? Would a structural stamp as evidence to support structural (even if not required) classify as a “non-ministerial permit” and therefore allows us to earn some points in the category? (added 02.02.21)

Generally speaking, NJBPU expects to see that developers have made a good faith effort to ensure that the roof is able to support the solar system, including any substantiating evidence of such efforts. An engineering letter or other proof of engineering assessment of the roof would likely meet this requirement; however, each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and NJBPU Staff cannot provide preemptive guarantees.

What are examples of non-ministerial permits? (added 02.02.21)

The Application Form Section VIII “Permits”, Question 3 provides a definition and examples of non-ministerial permits: “A non-ministerial permit is one in which one or more officials consider various factors and exercise some discretion in deciding whether to issue or deny a permit. This is in contrast to a ministerial permit, for which approval is contingent upon the project meeting pre-determined and established standards. Examples of non-ministerial permits include: local planning board authorization, use variances, Pinelands or Highlands Commission approvals, etc. Examples of ministerial permits include building permits and electrical permits.”

I have answered that we do not need any non-ministerial permits for the project to proceed, as all the solar is located on rooftops. I would like to include a charging station but do not want to have to say that I need a non-ministerial permit (which feels like it might indicate the project is not as far along as one that does not need any). I talked to the construction department and they indicated that zoning has to review, but adding a charging station at a large industrial complex seems like it would be allowed without a variance. I plan to answer the main question about permits for the solar project (meaning no non-ministerial permits needed) and if anything is needed for the EV charging station it will be handled separately and won’t affect the progress of the solar installation. (added 02.02.21)

Please answer all questions to the best of your ability. In special cases, such as the one described here, please provide as much information as possible in your application and the Evaluation Committee will review it accordingly.

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Application Scoring and Selection

How are projects selected to participate in the Pilot Program?

As described in the Application Form approved by the Board on October 2, 2020 (Docket No.  QO18060646 and QO20080556), following the close of the Application Period on February 5, 2021, each Application will be reviewed and evaluated by a dedicated Evaluation Committee. Projects will be scored according to the criteria for evaluation presented in Appendix C of the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Application Form. Projects must score a minimum of 50 points total in order to be considered for participation in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. Projects that score above 50 points will be presented to the Board for approval for participation in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program in ranked order, starting with the highest-scoring project and proceeding to the lowest-scoring project, and until the allocated program capacity for each Electric Distribution Company is filled.

How many projects will be selected in Program Year 2?

The allocated program capacity for Program Year 2 is 150 MW. Note that individual community solar projects may not exceed 5 MW. At least 40% of program capacity (i.e., at least 60 MW) will be allocated to low- and moderate-income (LMI) projects. Furthermore, the allocated program capacity for Program Year 2 is divided among each EDC area based on their average respective percentages of in-State retail electric sales.

When will I hear if my project was selected? Is there a timeframe or deadlines for NJBPU's review of Applications?

All Applications will be reviewed and evaluated together following the close of the Application Period (February 5, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.). Following the review and evaluation process, selected projects will be approved for participation in the Pilot Program by the Board. There are no time limits on NJBPU’s review or approval of projects submitted during the Application Period.

What happens if my project is not selected for participation in the Pilot Program during this Application Period?

A project which was not selected to participate in the Pilot Program in this Application Period may be resubmitted during the next Application Period without advantage or disadvantage. The Board has not approved a queue process for projects that were not selected to participate in the Pilot Program in this Application Period.

Can I begin construction on my community solar project prior to the Board’s selection of projects for participation in the Pilot Program?

No.

In the “Other Benefits” category in the Evaluation Criteria, if there is more than one criterion that apply to a project, how will points be allocated?

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 10 points can be allocated to projects under the “Other Benefits” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

In the “Siting” category in the Evaluation Criteria, how will points be allotted to projects located on “higher preference” and “medium preference” sites? For instance, if a project checks a box for a “higher preference,” does that project get the maximum number of points? If a project checks a box for a “medium preference,” does that project get 50% of the maximum points?

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 20 points, plus an additional 5 possible bonus points, can be allocated to projects under the “Siting” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

Must a landfill be capped at the time of Application to be considered for a landfill project?

A landfill is not required to be capped at the time of the Application. A landfill for purposes of the Application Form is regulated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Please refer to the NJDEP’s Guidance for siting solar on landfills, available at NJDEP Guidance for Installation of Solar Renewable Energy Systems on Landfills.

How much capacity has already been allocated in Program Year 2 of the Pilot Program? Is there a pipeline of projects already approved? When the program is fully subscribed for a Program Year, will that information be provided?

No capacity has been allocated yet to PY2 of the Pilot Program. Applications will be reviewed together, after the close of the PY2 Application Period, not on a first-come, first-served basis. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.3(e), the Board will publish the list of approved community solar projects, including names, locations, and sizes, and the total capacity of approved projects for each program year.

Would an application receive fewer points, as compared to other landfill applications, if only a portion of the proposed solar facility is physically installed on top of a landfill? In other words, is there a sliding scale of points awarded based on whether 20 acres of solar is proposed on 20 acres of landfill or if 20 acres of solar is proposed on 10 acres of landfill and 10 acres of “normal” ground, all other things being equal? (added 12.07.20)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 20 points, plus an additional 5 possible bonus points, are available under the “Siting” category. Staff cannot provide any further guidance on scoring. Point allocation in special cases will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the Program Year 2 application review process. All similarly situated applications will be treated equally and will receive the same point allocation.

Is there any other statute or regulation that the Board is relying on to block assessed farmland from getting points in the pilot years? (added 12.07.20)

Pursuant to the Pilot Program rules, projects sited on farmland are permitted to submit a community solar application. The Evaluation Criteria identified in Appendix C of the Application Form reflect the Board’s decision framework and preferences for selecting between multiple applications, and is further delineated in the Board’s Orders and regulations.   

I submitted an Application during Program Year 1. Where can I find out how my Application scored? (added 01.27.21)

Program Year 1 scores are available here.

I see from the Program Year 1 scoresheet that my project did not receive a score. Can you explain why? (added 01.27.21)

Projects that were administratively incomplete were not scored. Projects were deemed incomplete if they failed to complete required sections of the PY1 Application Form and/or failed to include required attachments.

The Evaluation Criteria for Siting includes a max of 3 bonus points for site enhancements (landscaping, land enhancement, pollination support (**)). Is there any way that rooftop projects can capture these bonus points? If not, then it would inherently put rooftop-sited projects at a scoring disadvantage versus other ground-sited projects. (added 01.27.21)

Yes, these bonus points will be available to rooftop projects. Each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis. For illustrative purposes only, some examples of PY1 Applications for rooftop projects that received bonus points for siting include site enhancements (e.g., roof repair, roof replacement), site landscaping (onsite, even if not directly on the roof), and rooftop pollinator support.

If we were to build our array at 8-10' and use bifacial modules so that crop farming could continue underneath the array, could our project be considered something other than a greenfield development? (added 01.27.21)

A project sited on farmland would receive no points in the siting category of the PY2 Application Form Evaluation Criteria. The Evaluation Criteria do not include points for projects that combine solar panels with ongoing agricultural production.

Is there an expected timeframe for the review of Program Year 2 applications? (added 01.27.21)

No. NJBPU will endeavor to review all PY2 applications as quickly as possible, but cannot commit to a definitive timeframe for review.

In the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category in the Evaluation Criteria, is there a delineation between one partner being better than another? For instance, would the Board make a difference between a small cafe vs. a large grocery, or large community organization like a church? Does the size of audience matter? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 15 points are available under the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

In the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category in the Evaluation Criteria, does having more than one partnership with a local community organization mean a greater number of points in the evaluation? Or would an application receive the same number of points whether it has one partnership or multiple partnerships? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 15 points are available under the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

In the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category in the Evaluation Criteria, how can we demonstrate a formal agreement/on-going collaboration/effective partnership with local community organizations? Would a partnership document, signed by the party be enough? (added 02.02.21)

NJBPU will review all documentation submitted in support of collaboration with local community organizations. A partnership document, particularly one that provides a detailed explanation of the partnership, would be a good way to document such collaboration.

In the Evaluation Criteria category for “Other Benefits,” how many EV chargers are required to obtain the full 10 points? Would my application receive the full 10 points for one EV charger, or do I need several? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 10 points can be allocated to projects under the “Other Benefits” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

In the “Product Offering” category in the Evaluation Criteria, will all applications that guarantee 20% or more savings receive earn equal points, or will the Board score an application differently if a project commits to providing a higher percentage of guaranteed savings (e.g. 22% or 25%)? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 15 points are available to projects under the “Product Offering” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

The “Product Offering” category in the Evaluation Criteria defines “higher preference” as guaranteed savings of 20% or greater, and “medium preference” as guaranteed savings of 10% or greater. Does the scale apply to both LMI and non-LMI residents? I.e., do we need to offer guaranteed savings of 20% or greater to receive points in the "higher preference" category across both LMI and non-LMI segments? What if we guaranteed savings of 20% for LMI subscribers, but 10-15% guaranteed savings for non-LMI subscribers? This would make the blended average 15% - 17.5%, therefore below 20%, is that correct? Is there some other guidance that 20% savings or greater only applies to the LMI subscriber segment? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 15 points are available to projects under the “Product Offering” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2. There is no existing guidance on how applications will be scored in the “Product Offering” category beyond what is provided in the Application Form. We encourage applicants to provide robust detail in their applications, as they will be given careful consideration in the review process.

In the “Project Maturity” section of the Evaluation Criteria, NJBPU notes what they are providing higher preference for, but no medium or low preferences as seen in other categories. Does this indicate that achieving the maximum 5 points is binary? If a project has some but not all of its non-ministerial permits, would the project receive partial credit? Will partial or all credit be granted for key permitting? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 5 points are available to projects under the “Project Maturity” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

Will there be a project waitlist for PY2 in case any selected project drops out? (added 02.02.21)

No, the Board has not established a waitlist for PY2.

Will environmental justice factors be considered under the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category of the Evaluation Criteria? (added 02.02.21)

Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 15 points are available to projects under the “Community and Environmental Justice Engagement” category. Point allocation will include consideration of environmental justice factors, as provided in the Application Form, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

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Special Authorizations and Exceptions

My project has received, in whole or in part, a subsection (t) conditional certification from the Board prior to February 19, 2019. Is my project still considered an “existing solar project” as defined under the Pilot Program rules?

Yes, a project having received, in whole or in part, a subsection (t) conditional certification from the Board prior to February 19, 2019 is considered an “existing solar project” as defined under the Pilot Program rules. Specifically, N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.2 defines an existing solar project, for the purposes of the Pilot Program, as “a solar project having begun operation and/or been approved by the Board for connection to the distribution system prior to February 19, 2019.” However, a special provision in the Application Form enables such projects to apply to the Pilot Program under certain strict conditions. Please review the Application Form carefully to determine if this circumstance applies to your project.

My project has received, in whole or in part, a subsection (t) conditional certification from the Board prior to February 19, 2019, and I am applying under the special provisions in Section B. XIII. Special Authorizations and Exemptions, Question 4 (page 18). Am I required to provide the affidavit described in Section B. XIII. Special Authorizations and Exemptions, Question 4 (page 22)?

If you are applying under the special provisions Section B. XIII. Special Authorizations and Exemptions, Question 4 (page 22), then you must provide the required affidavit, and comply with all other conditions applicable to your special circumstances.

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Low and Moderate Income

What counts as proof that a customer is on LIHEAP, etc.?  Is a copy of their utility bill sufficient?

Please see N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.8 for a list of qualifying criteria that may be accepted by a subscriber organization as proof of LMI status for individual subscribers. With respect specifically to N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.8(d)(2), a copy of the utility bill is sufficient to prove participation in LIHEAP, so long as the bill is recent and clearly identifies both the name of the subscriber and said subscriber’s participation in LIHEAP.

Under the program rules LMI subscribers can either be individual residential customers that meet the program’s established LMI qualifications or affordable housing providers that meet the program’s established definition. Will projects be able to substitute qualified affordable housing providers for individual LMI customers, or vice versa, provided that 51% of the project is subscribed by qualifying LMI customers?

Yes. Please see the definition of an LMI subscriber at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.8(a), and provisions relating to the transfer of subscriptions at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.6 and N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.7.

Would a proposed community solar project qualify as an LMI project if the median income of all the project’s subscribers is below the moderate-income limit as defined in the rules, or do individual subscribers need to be qualified as LMI subscribers?

Please see the definition of an LMI project and the definition of an LMI subscriber at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.8.

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Interconnection

What is the interconnection process for community solar projects?

As approved by the Board at its March 29, 2019 meeting (Docket No. QO18060646), community solar projects may file an interconnection application with the relevant EDC, following the interconnection standards set forth in N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.9(a) and N.J.A.C. 14:8-5.

Projects may file an interconnection application prior to being selected by the Board at their own risk.

Are projects required to have submitted an interconnection agreement or have an executed interconnection agreement prior to applying to the Pilot Program?

No, projects are not required to have submitted an interconnection agreement or have an executed interconnection agreement prior to applying to the Pilot Program.

Where can I find the capacity hosting maps for each EDC?

Capacity hosting maps are available for Atlantic City ElectricRockland Electric CompanyJCP&L, and PSE&G.

What happens if actual interconnection upgrade costs are prohibitive and knock an approved project out?

There are currently no penalties for withdrawing a project from the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program after it has been approved by the Board for participation.

Is there any reason that projects that have already applied for interconnection through PJM would be excluded from the program? Or will projects need to reapply through the distribution utilities should they be selected in the pilot program?

Pursuant to the Board’s Order dated March 29, 2019, docket number QO18060646 pertaining to the interconnection of community solar projects in the Pilot Program, and pursuant to the provisions established at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.9(a): “community solar projects shall comply with all current and future applicable interconnection requirements applicable to each EDC, as set forth in N.J.A.C. 14:8-5 and shall be processed by the EDCs following normal interconnection procedures.” Thus, the interconnection of community solar projects in the Pilot Program will be through the EDCs, not through PJM. Projects that are selected for participation in the Pilot Program will be required to file an interconnection application with the EDCs, irrespective of any interconnection application previously filed at the Applicant’s own risk through PJM.

As a developer, if I submit an interconnection application to the appropriate EDC for my proposed community solar project before the Year 2 Pilot Program approvals are announced, will my project receive a reserved spot in the interconnection queue?

No. Projects may submit an interconnection application at their own cost at any time. However, only projects that have been approved by the Board to participate in the Pilot Program may be assigned a place in the interconnection queue by the EDCs.

Can you confirm that projects do not have to submit interconnection applications or have an executed interconnection approval in order to submit an Application to participate in the Pilot Program?

Correct. Please see the Application Form and the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9 for further information.

Can a community solar project be turned on prior to being fully subscribed? (added 01.27.21)

Yes, a community solar project can be turned on prior to being fully subscribed. The Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules do not require a project to be fully subscribed prior to beginning commercial operation. Please see the rules for the specifics regarding banking of credits and compensation at the end of the annualized period. In particular, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.7(h), any generation delivered to the grid that has not been allocated to a subscriber may be “banked” by the project operator in a dedicated project EDC account for an annualized period of up to 12 months, distributed to any new or existing subscriber requirements set forth in N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.6. At the end of the up to 12-month period, any remaining generation credits shall be compensated at the EDC’s or BGS provider’s avoided cost of wholesale power, calculated at the nearest node to the point of delivery of the community solar project.

If the utility offers a pre-application study, would that suffice for scoring the points associated with completing an interconnection study in the “Project Maturity” category? (01.27.21)

Every Application will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and therefore we cannot provide a definitive answer to this question. Generally speaking, however, yes, a pre-interconnection study offered by the EDC would count towards the “Project Maturity” category of the PY2 Evaluation Criteria.

We are developing an application for a project located in PSE&G service territory. PSE&G has indicated to us that they will not consider interconnection applications until after the project has been selected by the Board for a community solar award. If so, then it would be impossible for any project in PSE&G territory to secure the points in this criteria section. Please clarify. (added 02.02.21)

Projects located in PSE&G service territory cannot receive an interconnection study until after they have been approved by the Board. The Board addressed this issue in an Order on January 7, 2021. For projects sited in PSE&G service territory for which the hosting capacity map shows no available capacity, the Order created a waiver process to allow these projects to apply. As the PY2 capacity is divided by EDC service territory, projects are scored against other projects in the same service territory. All PSE&G projects are treated alike, and therefore will not be at any competitive disadvantage in terms of the scoring.

I have been in contact with the EDC regarding interconnection of my proposed project. The EDC has confirmed I can use our email exchange confirming that we have identified a nearby interconnection point and estimating the upgrade costs. The hosting capacity map does not reflect this interconnection point. Would including my correspondence with the EDC be sufficient to meet this requirement? (added 02.02.21)

Yes. Please include any correspondence with the EDC regarding the interconnection of your proposed project.

The PSE&G waiver says we need to provide evidence that we are capable of paying the estimated upgrade cost, which in our case is around $XXX and is well within the project budget. How would we provide evidence that we can pay this? Could I provide the name of the financier who is backing the project? Or are you looking for something more specific, like a letter from the project owner saying they understand the potential cost and are capable of paying it? (added 02.02.21)

The Evaluation Committee will look for evidence that the project owner understands the potential cost of interconnection upgrades and is prepared to pay those upgrade costs. A letter from the project owner would likely meet this requirement.

Section VIII “Permits” Question 5 states: “The Applicant has consulted the hosting capacity map of the relevant EDC via the EDC’s website (links are available on the NJCEP website) and determined that, based on the capacity hosting map as published at the date of submission of the Application, there is sufficient capacity available at the proposed location to build the proposed community solar facility.” The ACE hosting capacity map publicly available on ACE website states that “this map was accurate in all material respects as of March 2019.” Furthermore, I contacted ACE inquiring about hosting capacity and the accuracy of the hosting capacity map publicly available on their website, and their response is that ACE is currently in the process of making updates and some of the information may be incorrect. In light of the fact that the ACE hosting capacity map is out of date and may be incorrect, is NJBPU considering any exception similar to the waiver granted for the PSE&G territory applicants? (added 02.02.21)

The Board has not considered expanding the waiver granted for PSE&G service territory to other service territories. Please use the hosting capacity map as it exists at the time you submit your application. Please also include any correspondence with the EDC that you think would be relevant to the Evaluation Committee’s review of your application.

Historically, EDCs have not performed interconnection studies until community solar projects are awarded capacity in the program. Does NJBPU anticipate that the EDCs will begin accepting pre-program award interconnection applications prior to the February 5th deadline? If the EDCs do not change this standard practice, can NJBPU staff provide guidance on how to satisfy this requirement if a developer is unable to secure a complete interconnection application for the proposed project and how many points will be awarded? (added 02.02.21)

ACE, JCP&L, and RECO have been accepting applications for interconnection studies prior to the deadline, though any such study will not be definitive and will not allow projects to reserve capacity until projects are approved by the Board. Special provisions have been made for projects located in PSE&G service territory. Per the Evaluation Criteria presented in Appendix C of the Application Form, up to 5 points are available to projects under the “Project Maturity” category. Point allocation will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the review of all applications submitted during Program Year 2.

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Community Solar Bill Credits

Where can I find more information about the community solar bill credits?

More information about the community solar bill credits, including bill credit calculations and sample bills provided by the Electric Distribution Companies are available here.

Will an affordable housing provider seeking to qualify as an LMI subscriber for the purposes of the community solar project or a master meter customer applying on behalf of their tenants receive bill credits at the residential rate bill credit or at the bill credit for their non-residential rate schedule?

Pursuant to the definition of the bill credit at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.7, the value of the bill credit will be set at the retail rate, minus non-by-passable charges, at the subscriber’s rate schedule. If the affordable housing provider is billed on a non-residential rate schedule, that rate schedule will be used to calculate the bill credits associated with their subscription.

Will a subscriber or Subscriber Organization be able to make changes to the date that a subscriber's Annualized Period ends? The ability to make at least a one-time change will enable subscribers to subscribe at any time, independent of seasonal energy bill changes.

No. Please see the definition of an annualized period at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.7(d).

How long can community solar contracts can be written for subscribers? For instance, can we offer subscribers a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with two five-year options to renew?

The Pilot Program rules do not require a specific nature or duration of the contract between a Community Solar Subscriber Organization and the subscribers to a project. Please see the rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9 and the Application Form for applicable rules and regulations. However, contract terms are considered in the evaluation of Applications.

How are non-by-passable charges defined?

The list of non-by-passable charges was defined by the Board Order issued July 10, 2019, and amended on August 7, 2019.

If a subscriber is currently buying electricity from a third party supplier, would they be eligible to participate in Community Solar? If so, would their credit value be based on the retail rate provided by their 3rd party supplier or by their local utility’s rate?

Third party supplier customers are eligible to participate in community solar. Pursuant to the Board Order issued July 10, 2019, and amended on August 7, 2019, the community solar bill credit is calculated based upon the applicable pre-Sales and Use Tax Basic Generation Service (“BGS”) charges at the time the energy output being credited to the subscriber was produced by the community solar facility.

Where does the funding for the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program come from and are there any follow up authorizations that need to take place from the legislator/regulatory body to authorize payments to developers? (added 02.04.21)

The community solar bill credits are managed by the utilities, and are recovered through rates. Once a project is approved by the Board, it becomes eligible to receive community solar bill credits, so long as the project is built and operated as it was approved by the Board.

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Incentives: SRECs, TRECs and Successor Program

Is my community solar project eligible for Transition Renewable Energy Certificates?

Community solar projects selected to participate in Program Years 1 and 2 of the Pilot Program will be eligible to apply, via a one-time election prior to the delivery of any energy from the facility, to the Transition Incentive program, subject to compliance with the rules and regulations of said incentive program. In particular, please be aware of the TI program registration deadlines: for projects selected in Program Year 1, the TI registration deadline is October 30, 2021; for projects selected in Program Year 2, the TI registration deadline will be one year from the project’s notice of conditional registration.

I have already registered with the Transition Incentive Registration Program. Can I use that TI registration for my community solar project?

No. Projects may not register a community solar project with the Transition Incentive program prior to being approved by the Board for participation in the Pilot Program. A TI registration that was filed prior to the project being approved by the Board for participation in the Pilot Program must be withdrawn and re-submitted upon the project being approved by the Board for participation in the Pilot Program.

Would a community solar project located on a landfill receive the 1.0 or 0.85 factor for TRECs? (added 01.27.21)

Community solar projects are eligible to register for a TREC factor of 0.85, regardless of project location.

Pursuant to the Board’s Program Year 2 Order, projects granted conditional approval to participate in Program Year 2 of the Pilot Program will be eligible to register for the Transition Incentive Program. What will the registration length be?
(added 01.27.21)

In its October 2, 2020 Order establishing the PY2 Application process and form, the Board found that Applications selected as part of PY2 will be eligible to register for the current Transition Incentive program, even if said Applications are selected after the establishment of the Successor Program. PY2 projects’ Transition Incentive eligibility is subject to maintaining compliance with the rules and regulations of the TI Program and Community Solar regulatory deadlines. The current registration expiration dates for registrations in the TI program are laid out at N.J.A.C. 14:8-10.4(e)4.ii. In particular, it is stated that the expiration date shall occur on “the one-year anniversary of the registrant’s notice of conditional registration for facilities that are net metered, provide onsite generation, or provide power for a qualified customer engaged in aggregated net metering and that registered in the Transition Incentive Program after October 30, 2020” (emphasis added). Please note that this is separate from the registration length associated with the Pilot Program itself: the community solar rules currently state that projects have 12 months to become operational; however, the Board is currently considering a rule proposal that would extend the project completion deadline to 18 months.

Does the proposed rule amendment that would extend the construction timeline from 12 months to 18 months, with an additional 6-month extension, under the amended Community Solar Pilot Program rules also apply to the Transition Incentive requirements for TREC eligibility? (added 02.02.21)

No. The construction deadlines under the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program are separate from the incentive registration deadlines for the TI Program.

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Project Milestones

As stated in the Application Form, page 4: “Pursuant to the rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.3(c), approved projects are expected to begin construction within 6 months of their approval by the Board, and are expected to become fully operational within 12 months of their approval by the Board. Extensions may be granted by Board Staff at its discretion, based on its assessment of the specific circumstances of each project approved.” What will be the criteria extension decisions are made on? How will NJBPU treat delays due to utility distribution system upgrade construction and other PTO delays outside of the control of the developer?

As stated in the rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.3(c) and in the Application Form, extensions may be granted by NJBPU staff based upon the specific circumstances of the project, so long as the project demonstrates substantial progress towards meeting the milestones. These extensions will therefore be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Please note: The Board proposed an amendment to the Pilot Program rules, which, if approved, would eliminate the deadline to begin construction, establish a requirement that approved projects provide quarterly progress updates, and extend the deadline to become fully operational from 12 to 18 months. Additionally, Staff would be able to grant one six-month extension; further extensions would need to be requested from the Board via a petition. If approved, these rule amendments will apply to all community solar projects granted conditional approval to participate in the Pilot Program. This note is for informational purposes only. Applicants must be prepared to construct their projects in accordance with the existing timelines in the current rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.3(c).

How much time will be permitted for municipalities to conduct RFPs in Year 1 of the pilot program?

See the Application Form, Section A. II, “Instructions for Completing the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Application Form,” and Section B. XIII, “Special Authorizations and Exemptions.” Specifically, it is stated that “[…] The Applicant must further commit to issuing said RFP, RFQ, or other bidding process within 90 days of the proposed project being approved by the Board for participation in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.” (p.6 and p.22)

When will the six-month and 12-month timelines begin for those projects selected via municipal RFP/RFQ?  How will they be treated for the purpose of extensions? Will these projects be subject to the same timeline since the RFPs/RFQs may not be issued until 90 days following Board approval?

The milestones and deadlines begin at the time of project approval by the Board. However, the issuance of an RFP/RFQ by a public entity would be taken into consideration by Staff in the examination of any request for an extension. Please see the prior answers for links to the proposed rule amendments that may lead the Board to modify these deadlines.

At what point in the development and construction timeline of an affordable multifamily project would it be appropriate for the developer to apply to the Community Solar program? E.g., at financing close, at construction completion, at lease-up, or at property stabilization? For reference, we would apply for a project that is scheduled for a March 2022 construction start and March 2023 construction complete. Reading through the program guidelines, I’m not clear as to when a developer would be eligible to apply and/or appropriate to apply. (added 02.02.21)

The decision when to submit an application is up to the applicant. Please keep in mind that, if approved, a community solar project must meet certain project completion deadlines. Currently, projects have 12 months for project completion, with the possibility of extensions. The Board is currently considering a rule amendment that would extend this deadline to 18 months, with the possibility of one 6-month extension. In considering whether to submit an application, we would encourage you to consider whether you will be able to complete the project within the deadlines.

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Subscribers

Where can I find a list of registered community solar subscriber organizations?

A list of registered community solar subscriber organizations is available here.

If a subscriber closes their account with the utility or violates its contract with the Community Solar Facility owner, can the Facility owner drop this subscriber and replace them with another?  For example, in New York, subscribers can be changed monthly.

Please see the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9. In particular, please see N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.7(m): “[…] Subscriber organizations shall send an updated list to the EDC once per month, following the method determined in (l) above,” and N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.10 regarding consumer protections.

For the initial subscription Product Offering Questionnaire in the Application Form (Appendix A), how will scoring work if some of our offerings have flexible terms and others don't? Do all the product offerings need to have >10% savings and flexible terms in order to receive full points?

The Evaluation Criteria that the Board will consider in evaluating Applications are detailed in Appendix C of the Application Form. Staff cannot provide any additional clarification or information regarding the scoring of Applications, beyond what is already presented in Appendix C.

Who is eligible to be a community solar subscriber? (added 01.27.21)

All ratepayers located in the service territory of a New Jersey Electric Distribution Company (EDC) are eligible to subscribe to a community solar project.

Can NJBPU review marketing materials before we send them out to customers?
(added 01.27.21)

Unfortunately, we are not able to review a company’s community solar marketing materials. We encourage you to consult the resources on our webpage. Outside entities may also be available to help, such as the Coalition for Community Solar Access and Sustainable Jersey.

How does a project subscribe LMI customers? Is it up to the developer to find third party organizations to sign-up LMI offtakers? Can we work with aggregators? (added 01.27.21)

The project is responsible for signing-up customers that wish to participate as community solar subscribers, including customers that would meet the project’s LMI requirements (should the project elect to be an LMI project).

What are the requirements to prove the LMI offtake for our application? How far along does the LMI offtake need to be to meet this requirement? (added 01.27.21)

The definition and income verification criteria for low- and moderate-income subscribers can be found in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rule. Please note that the Board is currently considering a proposed rule amendment that includes a proposal to amend these verification criteria. If the proposed rule amendment is adopted, it will apply to PY2.

If I indicate in my application that my project will use an anchor subscriber, would I be able to change the anchor subscriber after the project is awarded? Can I add or remove anchor subscriber from the project after the award? (02.02.21)

Yes, you may make changes to the anchor subscriber for a community solar project (including having an anchor subscriber even though your application indicated no anchor, or conversely, not having an anchor subscriber even though your application indicated your project would have one).

What happens if a project is not able to meet its subscription requirements? (added 02.02.21)

The Board does not currently specify what happens for PY1 projects that do not achieve their subscription goals. NJBPU recently proposed new rules that specify a maximum financial penalty for failure to meet subscription requirements, along with a case-by-case analysis of what the appropriate penalty should be. This represents Staff’s current thinking on how projects should be incentivized to achieve subscription goals; however, it is not currently binding on the Board. Should the proposed rule amendment be adopted by the Board, it will also apply to PY1 projects, as well as any new project going forward. Staff notes that it would look to mitigation measures undertaken by developers unable to meet their subscriber requirements in recommending any further action to the Board; but as stated above, it would be up to the Board to determine a remedy.

Can we change subscriber organizations post-award (i.e., if they go out of business)? (added 02.02.21)

Yes, you may change subscriber organizations. Pursuant to the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8-9.11(b), you must notify the Board in writing within 30 days of “any change to the project developer, owner, or operator in case of sale, transfer, contract modification, or other material change to the parties initially listed in the community solar application.”

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Other

How can I stay informed about the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program?

The best way to stay informed is to sign up for our listserv.

How many community solar project applications has NJBPU received so far?

NJBPU will not be publishing any information pertaining to community solar applications received while the Application Period is open.

I have a question, who should I contact?

If your question has not been answered on this FAQ page, please email communitysolar@njcleanenergy.com. You will not receive a response to your question via email. All responses are posted on this FAQ page.

 

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