New Jersey is already one of the leading states in the country in its use of solar power, and it looks like even more installations will spring up the rest of this year in South Jersey and elsewhere.

The fuel behind the installation of more solar panels on homes and businesses is a 30 percent federal tax credit that is currently scheduled to drop down to 26 percent next year, according to Peter Peretzman, spokesman for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

Even though New Jersey is the 11th most populated state in the country with a little more than 9 million residents, it is currently ranked sixth in the nation in its overall solar power installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

There are approximately 110,000 solar installations statewide, including residential and commercial, Peretzman said.

Joe Dougherty, executive director, operations, CARING, Inc., was partially responsible for a group home in Northfield being added to that total this year.

Unlike a typical house, a staff works inside of a group home 24/7, which means higher than normal electricity bills to keep the lights on for all the cooking, cleaning and washing that takes place.

Dougherty started doing research at least four years ago about whether it would be worth it to install solar panels on some of the group homes to save money.

“Environmentally, we would be good to go, if we could justify it economically,” said Dougherty, who added he convinced the Board of Directors to install the solar panels. “In six or seven years, the money spent will be paid back.”

The federal tax credit is supplemented with a state sales tax exemption for solar electric generation equipment and a local property tax exemption for solar electric generation equipment that offsets onsite electricity consumption, Peretzman said.

Besides the reduction in energy bills and availability of tax credits, solar panels significantly improve a home’s resale value, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

A report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that each 1-kilowatt increase in a rooftop solar system size adds $5,911 to a home’s resale value.

Solar panels extend the life of a roof, because they protect it from the elements, such as debris, rain and snow, the council says.

They also help combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our collective dependence on fossil fuel because traditional electricity is sourced from fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, the U.S. Green Building Council said.

A degree of training is needed to install solar panels, said Dan Cardillo, who is the head of the CE Team Solar company, based in Cape May Court House.

The solar panels Cardillo installs are from the Solar Edge company. The system can be monitored down to individual panels. Homeowners can check how the solar panel system is working on their cellphone, Cardillo said.

When installing solar panels to a roof, the solar panels are attached to rails. The rails are attached to anchor points. The anchor points are attached to the rafters in the roof, which are the internal beams that extend to the peak of the roof and constitute its framework, said Cardillo, who has been in the solar panel business for 15 years and on his own for the past five years.

There are some things to investigate when considering whether to install solar panels on a home. If tall trees are blocking the sunshine on a roof, homeowners have to decide to either cutback or cut down the trees. Also, a roof that faces to the north is not as desirable as the east, west or south when it comes to solar panels, said James Price, the project manager for Spectrum Energy, out of Maple Shade, Burlington County.

Another thing that needs to be looked into is if the home is in a designated historic district, Price said.

“You might have to go right to the township and apply for a variance. You might have to go in front of the zoning board,” said Price, who spent $21,500 on the 21 panels on his home.

Spectrum Energy has been installing solar panels for the last nine years, and the company has done installations in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties and Ocean County south of Forked River.

“Solar has appeal for homeowners. It can save off of their (energy costs) bottom line,” Price said.

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