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  • Writer's pictureCS Energy

Top 3 Solar Project Challenges in New Jersey




New Jersey is now ranked 8th in the U.S. in terms of installed solar capacity, with over 2,000 MW expected to be added over the next five years. With the rapid growth of solar projects in the state, the utilities and the state have imposed ever evolving requirements in an effort to ensure utmost safety. Most of the land closest to existing utility infrastructure has also already been developed for solar projects. These requirements and limitations have often had the unintended result of significantly delaying solar project schedules and increasing costs. Below we cover the top three challenges from our perspective that utility-scale solar projects are facing in New Jersey and how these can be overcome.


Challenge #1:

Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Permitting Timelines


DCA permitting is a recent requirement for New Jersey solar projects and any solar or electricity generating field is now required to comply with the DCA’s permitting processes. This new protocol can result in adding several months to the overall construction schedule for solar projects.


Solution:

Commencing collaboration with pertinent authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) and submitting Issued For Construction (IFC) design sets to DCA early in the project timeline is crucial for promptly meeting project owners’ schedule milestone dates. CS Energy actively partners with project owners to kickstart the design and engineering phase of work in advance, ensuring sufficient time for permitting, procurement, and construction so that the project can meet energization milestones in a timely manner.


Challenge #2:

Offsite Medium Voltage (MV) Collection Installations for Interconnection


The majority of open and suitable areas for solar development - areas that are located near existing utility infrastructure - are already being used to build solar projects. As a result, a greater number of New Jersey solar projects now have more challenging interconnection routes to reach more remote project sites. For example, greater horizontal directional drilling (HDD), road restoration and asphalt paving through miles of residential neighborhoods may be required in order to reach existing utility infrastructure. This can significantly add to project time and expenses if not properly addressed and mitigated.


Solution:

The primary ways to mitigate project risk with respect to cost and schedule when facing this challenge are to work with developers and owners to ensure all required easements and permits are in place, as well as thoughtful execution planning to ensure all restrictions and conditions in permits are met. Additionally, coordination with local township, police and other service providers should be ongoing. Industry experts and specialized contractors should also be closely collaborated with as part of the project team. CS Energy also holds pre-planning meetings with local communities, developers, owners, townships, police and service providers before a project takes place, as necessary. CS Energy has over a decade of experience successfully completing complex projects that require challenging interconnection routes. This track record has been key in streamlining the increasing number of sophisticated New Jersey solar projects for our project owners.


Challenge #3:

Continuously Evolving Utility Requirements


As more solar projects continue to be connected to the grid, utilities’ requirements continue to evolve. For example, utility witness testing is a process each utility requires to ensure that the safety features on a site are properly functioning and are able to automatically shut down the site or part of the site, if required. Historically, utility companies in New Jersey have had a member of their team visit the project site to confirm the automatic shutdown process is working as required. However, some utilities have recently updated their processes, which now require the EPC to prove that the system’s functionality meets requirements. EPCs now have to draft the procedure, receive the utility’s approval on the procedure, complete third party testing and sign off on the test, and finally submit the test to the utility for approval.


Solution:

The only way to avoid unnecessary delays as a result of ever changing utility requirements is to begin communications with the utility company as early as possible and receive clarity on expectations. This will prevent any surprises and reduce project risks when it comes to the protocols for processes like witness testing.



If you’re looking for EPC or development support on your solar project, get in touch with an expert at CS Energy.


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