From air conditioning to vacuum cleaners, New Jersey has long been known for its innovations, and now it is home to the largest floating solar array in North America. Consisting of 16,510 solar panels, the 8.9-megawatt (MW) solar array covers 17 acres of the Canoe Brook reservoir in Short Hills, New Jersey. The clean power generated is enough to power 1,400 homes annually and will provide approximately 95% of the power needs for New Jersey American Water’s Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant.
Owned and operated by NJR Clean Energy Ventures (CEV), the renewable energy subsidiary of New Jersey Resources, the array uses an innovative racking system that enables the panels to float on water. Projects like this offer a novel approach to developing solar and a practical solution to the challenge of finding suitable locations to accommodate large scale commercial solar installations. Built mostly on man-made lakes or reservoirs, where tides and saltwater will not impact the panels, floating solar projects turn beneficial use space into clean energy. Innovative approaches to clean energy, like Canoe Brook, are increasingly important in densely populated areas, such as New Jersey.
“Floating solar technology creates new opportunities for underutilized bodies of water, allowing space that would otherwise sit vacant to enable large-scale renewable energy generation, which helps to bring the benefits of clean energy to even more customers,” said Robert Pohlman, Vice President of NJR Clean Energy Ventures. “As a leader in New Jersey’s solar marketplace, we look forward to working with New Jersey American Water to support its power needs and advance the state’s clean energy and climate goals.”
“As the state’s largest water and wastewater utility company, it is essential for us to be good stewards of the environment by operating efficiently and in a manner that helps protect our natural resources,” said Mark McDonough, president of New Jersey American Water. “This initiative provides a meaningful reduction of traditional energy use that benefits the environment, as well as our customers through limited capital expense and reduced power costs.”
"Sound and consistent investment in renewable energy is critical to reducing climate pollution and the resulting flooding, wildfire, and extreme heat repeatedly harming New Jersey's communities and economy," said Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. "The Canoe Brook Floating Solar Facility project is an example of innovative leadership by critical partners in business and industry working hard to ensure the Garden State reduces its climate risk. My Department of Environmental Protection colleagues and I congratulate NJR Clean Energy Ventures and New Jersey American Water for their work on this project.”
“We are proud to see the largest floating solar facility in North America be built in New Jersey, It truly underscores the efforts that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities puts towards a diverse, clean, energy future,” said Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
The Canoe Brook solar facility was placed into full commercial operation in January 2023. In addition to providing sustainable, clean energy, the array provides other benefits. The solar power produced is equal to removing 8,121 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere compared to traditional power sources. Floating solar panels can also help reduce evaporation, which protects the water source and benefits the environment.
Since 2009, CEV has invested over $1 billion in commercial and residential solar projects. As one of the largest solar owner/operators in that state, today it maintains 65 commercial solar assets across four states and a portfolio of more than 440 MW of installed capacity.
Canoe Brook is the second floating solar project in CEV’s portfolio. The first, a 4.4 MW array located in Sayreville, New Jersey, was placed into commercial operation in 2020.