Top Cities for Solar Energy in New Jersey (2021)
When you think about solar energy, you probably tend to think about places in the Sun Belt — Southern California, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and places in between. It might surprise you to learn that New Jersey actually gets ample sun exposure, making it one of the top states for solar installation. In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association notes that New Jersey ranks No. 7 in the nation for total solar installations.
Of course, some parts of New Jersey rank higher than others for overall solar adoption. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the top cities for solar in New Jersey.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in New Jersey
To rank the top cities for solar in New Jersey, the EcoWatch team took into account reports furnished by the SEIA, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's solar irradiance maps and GIS data from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, among other data points.
Based on our research, we rank these as the top cities for solar in New Jersey:
- Middletown Township
- Long Branch
- Cherry Hill
Newark is one of New Jersey's most significant centers for the arts and culture. It's also a city with a growing reliance on solar energy, helping homeowners keep their utility expenses manageable. In fact, the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America shows Newark is one of the top 20 cities in the country for per-capita solar installation.
New Jersey's capital city has made an admirable investment in solar energy. There are a number of top solar companies operating in the area that enable homeowners to easily make the jump to clean, renewable energy. This is helping the city become a leader in offsetting high electric costs.
Middletown Township is a coastal area due south of Staten Island, New York. It's located in Monmouth County, which is one of three New Jersey counties that has over 300,000 kW of solar capacity installed.
Just an hour outside of Manhattan, Edison is a growing bedroom suburb of New York City. Because of its proximity to the Big Apple, Edison has a consistently high population. It also has a steady commitment to solar energy that's matched by many surrounding cities in Middlesex County.
Another part of the broader NYC metropolitan area, Woodridge gets a decent amount of sunlight. Spend any amount of time in the town and you'll notice at least a few rooftops retrofitted with different types of solar panels. You'll probably also see a number of commercial buildings with solar arrays, as Middlesex County has the most non-residential solar installations of any county in New Jersey.
Long Branch, also in Monmouth County, has plenty of access to beaches and shorelines — and with it, ample exposure to the sun's natural rays. It's a great place to invest in solar power; according to NREL maps, Long Branch has one of the highest residential roof-mount potentials in the state and over 20,000 identified buildings that are suitable for solar.
A growing New York City bedroom community, Lakewood has many rooftops that are in prime position for solar power. It's located in Ocean County, which has New Jersey's highest percentage of residential solar installations according to the NJDEP.
Cherry Hill gets enough sunlight that solar energy is a very viable proposition for local home and business owners. NREL maps show Cherry Hill has an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar installation and good potential for energy generation, making it one of the top cities for solar in New Jersey.
New Jersey's third most populous city has a growing solar scene, and a number of local installers who are eager to help homeowners capitalize on clean, renewable energy. Like Long Branch, Patterson has a very high residential roof-mount potential and over 20,000 buildings suitable for solar installations.
Located just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden offers homeowners enough access to sunlight to make it very viable for solar power. It rounds out our list of the top cities for solar in New Jersey thanks to its potential for annual solar power generation and number of buildings fit for solar, plus the capacity the city has already installed.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
In considering the top cities for solar in New Jersey, it's worth pointing out a couple of common denominators. For one, the best cities for solar tend to be places that get lots of sunlight throughout the year. This often makes beach towns especially prime solar locations, and the Garden State has a lot of coastline.
Average New Jersey Electricity Costs
Additionally, cities with higher utility costs tend to be advantageous places to invest in solar power. As a rule of thumb, if your electric costs are high, it means you'll see more benefits from investing in solar panels.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the average monthly energy consumption in New Jersey is 663 kWh, which is actually quite a bit more than in New York but less than in Pennsylvania. The average monthly electric cost is a little more than $105, which is comparable with surrounding states.
New Jersey Solar Tax Incentives
One reason New Jersey has exceptional solar installation rates (even though it's not in the Sun Belt) is that the state has some of the best solar incentives in the entire country. These greatly reduce the overall cost of solar panels for residents.
For example, take the net metering program. Through net metering, if your residential solar system generates more electricity than you actually need, you can funnel that surplus energy back into the eclectic grid and get credits from local utility providers. In other words, New Jersey creates an easy way to sell your excess solar power. To learn more about net metering opportunities, check with participating utility providers, including Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) and Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG).
New Jersey also offers a sales tax exemption on solar products; when you buy solar panels and other necessary equipment, you won't need to pay the state's 7% sales tax. This makes the initial solar investment considerably more affordable.
The state also offers property tax exemptions: Your residential solar system may increase the value of your property, but it won't make property taxes increase in kind.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
In addition to these state-level incentives, New Jersey homeowners can also take advantage of a federal tax credit, which is available to all Americans. The current credit will reduce the initial cost of your residential solar system by 26% if installed prior to 2022 and 22% if installed in 2023. It is scheduled to drop off for residential solar panel installations in 2024.
New Jersey Solar Regulations
The state's net metering programs and other incentives make solar more attractive, but there are some additional local regulations that New Jersey homeowners should know about as they prepare to make a solar energy investment. Some of the most essential examples include:
- The Solar Act of 2012, which mandates that a little more than 4% of all New Jersey energy sales will come from solar by the year 2028. This was later amended to be a little more than 5%.
- The Community Solar Energy Pilot Program Rule allows certain homeowners to "participate in a solar energy project that is remotely located from their property." The applications for this program are currently closed.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in New Jersey
If your city didn't make our top list of the top cities for solar in New Jersey, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include installing a solar panel system on your roof and contacting elected officials at both the local and state levels to push for ambitious solar energy goals. By doing these things, you can play a big part in New Jersey's pivot toward clean energy.