The following is an article entitled Hot and Green Legal Topics: Round 2 originally from the May 2010 edition of The Cutting Edge:
There has been quite a flurry of legislative activity this year in the arena of green building and renewable energy. A few examples of new and proposed laws follow below.
- On January 16, 2010, just prior to leaving office, Governor Jon Corzine signed the "solar farm bill" (P.L. 2009, c. 213) which, among other things, authorizes a person who owns preserved farmland to install and operate biomass, solar or wind energy generation facilities, structures and equipment on the farm for the purpose of generating power or heat and adds "the generation of power or heat from biomass, solar, or wind energy" to the list of permitted activities that may be conducted on commercial farms.
- On April 22, 2010, Governor Chris Christie approved a new law (P.L. 2010, c.4), which amends a number of existing State laws, including the Municipal Land Use Law, to require that solar panels be excluded from the calculation of impervious coverage. The term “solar panel” is defined to include “an elevated panel or plate, or a canopy or array thereof, that captures and converts solar radiation to produce power, [but] excludes the base or foundation of the panel, plate, canopy or array."
- While on the topic of solar, it is important to note that before installing a solar energy system, the owner or operator of the facility should confirm that it will have unobstructed access to sunlight and secure this resource for the future. This can be accomplished by acquiring an easement across adjacent properties. Fortunately, New Jersey recognizes easements for solar energy facilities and has set forth the minimum content requirements for such easements in the Solar Easements Act, N.J.S.A. 46:3-24, et seq.
Property Assessment Clean Energy
During the current session, many green bills have been introduced in the State Legislature. One of the more interesting legislative proposals being considered is Senate bill S1406 which, if adopted, would create a property assessment clean energy municipal financing program. Under the proposed program, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in consultation with the Board of Public Utilities would provide money through low-cost sources of financing, such as qualified energy conservation bonds, to municipalities interested in loaning funds to property owners for the purchase of solar equipment. Property owners receiving these funds would pay back their loans through a special assessment and the assignment of solar renewable energy certificates.
New Energy Efficient Home Credit
At the federal level, Congress recently passed a bill (H.R. 4213) that extends the life of the New Energy Efficient Home Credit, which provides a $2,000.00 tax credit for a qualified new energy efficient home and a $1,000.00 credit for a qualified manufactured home, through December 31, 2010. However, the bill must still go through reconciliation and be signed by the President.
Clearly, the aforesaid legal developments will impact the real estate industry. Therefore, it is important to become familiar with these, and other new and proposed legislation.