Pole solar? Something about the moniker sounds unnerving, but not for New Jersey’s largest utility PSE&G and startup Petra Solar. PSE&G says that today it has received regulatory approval from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to build its own solar project that will cost $515 million, and will include the world’s largest installation of solar panels mounted on utility poles throughout New Jersey neighborhoods.
The entire solar project, dubbed “Solar 4 All,” which the utility will own, will include 40 MW, or 200,000 installations, of Petra Solar’s solar units on utility poles, and 40 MW of rooftop solar installations. PSE&G says the entire 80 MW project will double the solar capacity of New Jersey, and make the utility the largest owner of solar in the North East. The cost to PSE&G’s customers? The utility says an average of 10 cents a month for the first year of the program.
While the solar project is a big deal for PSE&G, it’s a point of celebration for South Plainfield, N.J.-based startup Petra Solar. Petra Solar says the contract with PSE&G is worth $200 million and will create 100 “green jobs.” In a statement, Petra Solar President and CEO Shihab Kuran, called the contract, “[T]ransformational for us. We are tripling in size and will start hiring immediately.”
Petra Solar’s “SunWave” solar pole technology, which includes a solar microinveter, a solar panel, and a communications system, can be connected directly to the grid at the pole itself. Petra Solar says the system can be installed easily and help utilities add solar assets quickly to meet state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which say utilities have to offer a certain percentage of their electricity from clean power by a certain date. In addition, Petra Solar says SunWave has a wireless communications system that can connect with utilities’ smart grid rollouts.
Petra Solar has been developing its microinverter solar products over the past couple of years and in 2007 raised $14 million from DFJ Element and BlueRun Ventures and National Technology Enterprises.