New Jersey company using new solar shingles

If our goal as a nation right now is to switch from nonrenewable energy sources to renewable ones, no company has better illustrated that the switch is possible than NJR Home Services in New Jersey.

“We have always been a natural gas company,” said NJR spokesman Michael Kenny. “This is the first time that we’re getting into electric, and we’re seeing tremendous success.”

The company launched its solar leasing program about a year ago and has seen hundreds and hundreds of applications ever since and signed more than 100 contracts to put traditional photovoltaic panels on New Jersey homeowners’ roofs with zero up-front cost to them.

Not all homes are eligible for the program; they have to have roofs no older than five years with unrestricted southern exposure to the sun.

Nonetheless, the project was so successful in its first year that NJR Home Service has decided to expand its solar electric offerings.

Earlier this week, the company announced that it was teaming up with Uni-Solar for a pilot program.

Uni-Solar has created a new kind of panel, one that blends in with the typical asphalt shingle. The company calls it the Power Shingle. It doesn’t stick up from the roof the way photovoltaic panels traditionally do. It’s flush with the roof and looks just like a normal roofing shingle.

The panels are just as effective as typical panels, Kenny said.

“They’re just more esthetically pleasing,” he added.

Most of the solar systems NJR Home Services install produce three to seven kilowatts. NJR pays installation and maintenance costs while homeowners benefit from New Jersey’s net metering program. Homeowners pay a flat lease fee of $8.66 per kilowatt produced for a 20-year contract.

When the contract is up, the homeowners will be able to buy the system from NJR or agree to pay for the power it produces.

Kenny said NJR will start the new Power Shingle pilot program with a goal of roofing 30 New Jersey homes with the new solar panels.

“It’s an exciting program, and we’re continuing to grow with it,” Kenny said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on wind and solar, and it’s certainly a growing market.”