New Jersey Powers Up Renewable Energy Industry

NRG, a longtime fossil fuel company, is among a new vanguard of New Jersey companies — including power companies, solar startups, and tech and investment firms -- focusing on wind energy. 

Betsy Williams
On Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 14:22

In designing a new, state-of-the-art hospital in Plainsboro, officials at University Medical Center of Princeton insisted on evidence-based architecture that harnessed technology and design to create life-saving efficiencies. Those include high-tech robot spaces and smart operating rooms that respond to a surgeon’s voice commands to adjust temperature, lighting and produce patient data.

Hospital executives brought the same high-tech, high-efficiency expectations to the building’s energy source, an on-site Energy Center comprised of a central utility plant, a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) facility and a thermal energy storage system that will produce electricity, steam and chilled water.

This cogeneration facility is a project of NRG Energy and is one of dozens of similar cogeneration projects the Princeton-based independent power producer has undertaken in the past decade. NRG Energy, a longtime fossil fuel company, is making an estimated $13.8 million investment in the Plainsboro project.

“While the vast majority of our plants run on fossil fuels, we recognize the country’s need to move to a cleaner-energy economy, and we’re doing things in a lot of corners to make that happen,” says David Gaier, NRG Energy communications manager.

NRG is in the vanguard of New Jersey companies – including utilities, solar startups and tech and investment firms focusing on wind power – that are leading the way for innovations in clean and renewable energy.
New Jersey now ranks seventh in the nation for clean-energy projects. Furthermore, solar and wind projects are increasingly gaining traction in the state.

Italy-based MX Solar invested $14.5 million in establishing its first U.S. operations in Somerset. MX Solar USA will open its new, 138,000-square-foot production facility to design and distribute photovoltaic modules to the U.S. market.
The state itself has invested $322 million in public funds for nearly 6,000 solar power installations.

Incentives for Green Energy

To reduce New Jersey’s carbon footprint, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority created Clean Energy Solutions, a constantly evolving financing program launched for new and existing businesses interested in joining an emerging green economy.

In September 2010, the program offered $18 million in financing funded by federal stimulus dollars to companies pursuing cogeneration projects, such as NRG’s at the University Medical Center that combine heat and energy.
Also in 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a wind energy bill that provides $100 million in tax credits for companies manufacturing components for wind turbines in New Jersey and a market-based incentive program for developers of wind farms off the coast.

Driven by the Wind

The New Jersey coast has proved particularly attractive to large investors interested in experimenting with wind power. Internet giant Google and a group of technology and investment firms have set aside $1.8 billion to build a network of deep-water transmission lines for future wind farms off the coast of northern New Jersey that extend south to Virginia.

The 7.5-megawatt Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm was the first wind farm to be built in New Jersey and the first coastal wind farm in the United States. Located in Atlantic County, the project produces approximately 19 million kilowatt-hours of emission-free electricity per year, which is enough to power more than 2,000 homes.


Betsy Williams has extensive experience in economic development and advocating for businesses of all sizes.