The two primary ways to get solar energy are to have panels installed on your roof or purchase electricity that was generated by solar panels. Almost everyone will still be connected to the grid and get your electricity through your local utility (e.g., Atlantic City Electric (ACE), Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG), and Rockland Electric). That is, your electricity will be as reliable as it currently is. You still have electricity at night. To protect electrical utility workers, when there is an electricity outage in your area, your panels are disabled unless you also install a backup battery system. With a backup battery (costing thousands of dollars) your solar panels can power some or all of your home in case of an outage.

Solar Panels for your home (on your roof or in your yard) has two options:

Purchase: Panels for a typical NJ home cost about $60K. With Federal and State incentives, you pay about $30K and save about $5K per year.  With an interest free loan (available through the state), you put no money down, recoup your investment in about 9 years and afterwards “make” money each year for the next 11+ years (panels are guaranteed for 20 years). Solar panel purchase is the way to make the most money over the lifetime of the panels.

Lease: In leasing, you do not buy (or own) the panels. The solar company installs them on your house and is responsible for any maintenance. You sign a contract for a guaranteed discounted electricity rate. In this option, you allow the solar company to install the panels and you get some savings.

Which Choice is better for you?

If you plan to live in your house for 6+ years, the purchasing option saves you the most money. You have a little more responsibility when you purchase, but solar equipment is very reliable and usually comes with substantial warranties, make sure to ask about the warranties on the panels and the inverter.

Leasing is easier with less paperwork, but you do not get as much savings.

The best time to install panels on your roof is immediately after you have your shingles replaced (so you do not need to remove and reinstall panels when replacing shingles). Not all homes are ideal for panels (your roof may have obstructions, face the wrong way, or require roof upgrades). Realtors report panels do not affect resale value of your home. Due to NJ regulations, your array is sized to produce less than 100% of your energy (e.g., 90%).

Link for NJ Clean Energy’s List of Contractors

3rd Party Energy Suppliers

This is the easiest method to get 100% solar (or wind) energy. Simply go to your energy provide (e.g., PSE&G or ACE) and sign up for 3rd party supplier. This method also gets the least discount, and you may end up paying more for your electricity. Still, buying 100% renewable energy is great for the planet.

Community Solar

Community Solar allows you to buy energy from a solar farm at a remote location (e.g., a landfill or industrial rooftops). Most programs allow you to buy solar at rate 10-25% less than you pay your standard provider. There are no fees or commitments (you can cancel anytime). Because this is a new program, signups and billing are a little confusing and it is not available in all areas. Once you sign up, you get guaranteed savings for 20 years. If a better deal comes along, you can cancel your current program and join the better one. You can sign up on some community solar projects here. More options will be available by mid-2022 (when the second round of Community Solar is operational).


ProgramPanels at your home3rd Party SupplierCommunity Solar
Panels on your roof/yard?YesNoNo
Percentage of Solar you can buy90%100%90%
AvailabilityHome OwnersAnyone: Home owners, Apartments, Renters
ProsGreatest cost savings100% solar or windBest savings without panels on your roof.
ConsArrange installations, signing contracts.Most costlySome effort required to sign up.

Note: Read any contract you are about to sign carefully. Some leasing and 3rd party contracts can escalate prices after starting with lower rates.

Have more questions?

Email: Ed Cohen [email protected]