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N.J. using utility poles in solar push

Light and electrical poles to support grid-linked solar panels from Petra Solar in what the company calls the "largest pole-attached solar installation in the world."

New Jersey to approve deal to install 200,000 solar panels around the state on its utility poles. Petra Solar

It looks like those unsightly utility poles throughout New Jersey will be getting yet another accessory.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is set to approve on Thursday a $200 million contract between Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) and Petra Solar to install over 200,000 photovoltaic panels to tie in to the state's electrical grid.

Petra's SunWave solar panels, which have smart grid communication tools built-in, will be attached to utility and light poles that are owned and operated by PSE&G throughout the state.

The project to develop, install, and maintain the grid-connected solar system will create about 100 green jobs, according to both Petra and PSE&G.

"We are tripling in size and will start hiring immediately," Petra CEO Shihab Kuran said in a statement.

The installation is part of an initiative that PSE&G announced in February 2009 to bring solar panels to every town in its New Jersey coverage area.

The Petra Solar installation will be the "largest pole-attached solar installation in the world," according to PSE&G. But it's only part of the $515 million in 80 megawatts worth of solar energy projects that the New Jersey utility is expected to get approval for on Thursday.

PSE&G plans to implement solar installations on the rooftops of its offices and facilities throughout the state, as well as "solar gardens" on some of its properties. It was also approved to develop an additional 5 megawatts worth of solar power in New Jersey urban enterprise zones within its service area, and 10 megawatts in conjunction with third-parties wishing to participate in an installation on their properties.

"Our program will effectively double the size of New Jersey's installed solar capacity. That is more solar capacity than currently exists in any state other than California," Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G's president and COO, said in a statement.

LaRossa is referring to California's giant solar installation approved in February 2009, for the utility Pacific Gas & Electric to produce 500 megawatts worth of solar energy from distributed solar panels throughout the state.