By: Henry T. Chou, Esq.

On October 20, 2010, a partnership of Dallas-based Panda Power Funds and New York-based Con Edison Development began construction on one of the nation’s largest solar farms in Pilesgrove, New Jersey, a rural community in Salem County, approximately 20 miles from Wilmington, Delaware.

The 100-acre former farm was slated for residential development, but in the down housing market, the energy companies were able to acquire the property for use as a solar farm, consisting of 71,000 solar panels which will be installed and generating power by next spring.

Producing 20 megawatts of DC power, it will be the nation’s second largest solar farm. The only existing solar farm that is bigger is a 25-megawatt facility in Arcadia, Florida.

The solar farm developer was lured to New Jersey with an innovative solar-renewable energy certificate program, which works like the emissions trading program currently being considered by the U.S. Congress. Under the program, energy companies generating power from non-renewable energy sources must buy certificates from producers of renewable energy in order to avoid paying fines for carbon emissions.

The certificates, which are traded on the open market, cost approximately $400-$500 each. The Pilesgrove solar farm will generate about 27,000 certificates per year, which means that in addition to selling the energy they produce, the developers can make an additional $11-12 million per year in certificate sales.