Why national solar CEO says New Jersey does it right

Bernhard’s Tinsley says policies, spirit of cooperation and governor’s support make N.J. ideal spot for his Energy-as-a-Service solar model

Bernhard’s Ed Tinsley brings the Southern style and charm you’d expect from a CEO who works out of Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s a personality that has helped him quickly embrace John Calipari, the formerly hated Kentucky men’s basketball coach who is now viewed as a savior for the state’s flagship university.

He’s always looking to support a winning play.

It’s why, when it comes to the solar business, Tinsley said he is all-in on New Jersey and the Northeast.

Tinsley said as much following the announcement last week that Bernhard will partner with Hackensack Meridian Health on a 30-year, $134 million Energy-as-a-Service project that will put 50,000 solar panels on the system’s 18 hospitals, making HMH the largest solar and battery energy storage system of any not-for-profit health care provider in the country.

“I love New Jersey,” he said. “Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s policies changed the game for us here.”

The game is having Corporate America be a leader in the use of renewable energy. And, while that seems easy — “All you need are building tops and sunlight,” Tinsley said — Tinsley acknowledges there are challenges.


New Jersey is making it easier for Bernhard to overcome them, Tinsley said. Here are a few reasons why:

Energy-as-a-Service model

Most developers in the solar industry pitch a solar PPA (or power purchase agreement), in which a third party (a company such as Bernhard) would own the solar panel itself.

“That is not the right way to do it,” Tinsley said.

Bernhard uses an energy concession model, where the partner (in this case, HMH), will own the panels — and the tax credit benefits that come with it. If you’re a 501(c)(3) or tax-exempt in other ways, that benefit is even greater, Tinsley said.


Tinsley points to the State Renewable Energy Credits that New Jersey provides. It’s 9-11 cents per kilowatt hour for 15 years.

“That’s a big deal,” Tinsley said.

All-in approach

Tinsley said the fact that all stakeholders are behind such projects — whether they be utilities or ratepayers — is huge.

“The state is finding a way to do this where they are not shifting the costs to other ratepayers,” he said. “That’s a tenuous balance. I think New Jersey can be a leader here.
“The utilities aren’t averse to it here. When you go to other places, even Arkansas, there are not policies in place to prevent it from shifting cost to others. It’s magical here.”


Tinsley said Bernhard always is looking for more opportunities.

And, while the company does most of its business in the health care (approximately 70%) and higher education (approximately 15%) sectors, there is always room for growth.

Especially in New Jersey.

“Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a blue state, red state thing here,” he said.

It’s why Tinsley is a frequent visitor, always looking for opportunity. He said he’s been in talks with a health care system in New York.

That being said, it appears he enjoys this side of the river.

“I love it here,” he said. “New Jersey does it right.”