A Wayne resident is joining the fight for a cleaner, less polluted future for the Garden State.
Robert Simpson, the owner of Brother Sun Solar, is one of 111 business owners to join the newly-formed New Jersey Business Council for Clean Energy (BCCE), a non-partisan network of businesses and business leaders committed to advancing renewable energy initiatives in New Jersey. The group is comprised of solar energy providers, engineering firms, and solar panel developers.
“Making renewable energy more affordable and accessible to people just makes sense,” Simpson said. “Here is a fostering industry that helps make the planet healthy. We have to embrace it as much as we can.”
The organization wants to work with local, county, and state officials, including the state Board of Public Utilities, to position New Jersey as a world leader in the development, manufacturing, and installation of clean energy and energy-efficient technologies, including solar- and wind-generating power sources.
The group also wants to reduce the state’s dependence on importing fossil fuels from other countries.
“We’re here to ensure that the voices of businesses that specialize in renewable energy are heard, not just by residents, but by politicians and those in places of authority as well,” said Mike Torpey, co-executive director of the BCCE. Torpey a Republican, was to former Governor Christie Todd Whitman’s chief of staff. “It’s an opportunity for businesses in this area to participate in public policy.”
The group also hopes its formation, which was announced last week, will have a positive impact on the state’s economy.
“The development of the clean energy sector is critical to our economy,” Torpey said. “It is an area that is only going to continue to grow, and, hopefully with our help, at a faster, more sustainable pace.”
Solar panels are already a common site in the township.
Solar panels are in the Wayne Public School District. boasts the largest solar energy facility on a college campus in the United States.
Educating the public and political leaders on the advantages of renewable, natural energy is also one of the organization’s primary objectives.
“We need to target leaders on both sides of the political aisle,” said Rich Gannon, the organization’s other co-director. Gannon was a senior official in former Governor Jim Florio’s administration. “If there’s one thing that politicians should be able to agree on, it’s helping the planet.”
Educating others is mostly what Simpson does now. He’s been in business in town for 10 years. He used to install and maintain solar energy systems, but now he works mostly to educate others on the benefits of renewable energy.
“There used to be so much federal stimulus money for things like solar panels and other renewable energy projects for individuals,” Simpson said. “Now so much of the work is done by big corporations.”
And that’s a big problem, Simpson said.
It used to be that someone would receive a grant from the government to install solar panels on his or her home or business, or they would just pay for the project themselves. But now, Simpson said, another company installs the panels for free. The owner’s monthly utility bill may decrease, but the company keeps the renewable energy certificates (RECs) earned as a result of the energy the system generates. The owner does not receive credit for them and cannot sell them as commodities. One REC is earned for every megawatt of power generated.
“These companies are basically renting people’s roofs and the people, sure they have a reduced energy bill, but they can’t sell the RECs they earn and that’s a shame,” Simpson said. “There has to be a way to make solar, and all kinds of renewable energy, accessible to everyone and hopefully that’s what [the BCCE] will work towards.”