Solar panels on an Oakland rooftop. (Photo by Solar Mosaic.)

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris “Chris” Christie (R) signed into law an effort to expand the state’s fast-growing solar industry. ThinkProgress has the wonky details.

New Jersey has the second-most solar installations in the country, behind only California. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association:

In the first quarter of this year, 174 megawatts of new solar capacity were connected to the N.J. grid. Cumulatively, more than 775 megawatts of solar has been installed in the state, enough to power about 130,000 homes.

That kind of growth is hard for any politician to ignore.

Christie once worried that bolstering renewable energy could be a “financial albatross.” But now his embrace of a common-sense measure to promote solar demonstrates that renewables can be — and, of course, should be — a political asset. Christie explained his decision as follows:

Renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth and the creation of good-paying jobs for the people of our state. The bill I am signing today furthers these goals and will help us remain a national leader in the solar energy industry as we continue to promote innovative approaches to solar development, like developing landfills and other unusable lands and transforming them into sources of usable clean energy, all while holding down costs for families and businesses.

Caught in the turmoil of the presidential race, it’s easy to forget that the process of campaigning is different from the process of legislating. When presented with the actual benefits of renewable energy to his state, even a rising Republican star understands that anti-renewables rhetoric is a much better idea in a negative TV ad than in the statehouse.

Update: Well, it was nice while it lasted.

The state is considering cutting its funding for new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects almost in half, a consequence of the Legislature’s and Christie administration’s decision to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from New Jersey’s clean energy program.

In a draft proposal circulated by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities last week, the budget for the clean energy program would allocate $339 million in new spending, a sharp reduction from the $651 million proposed by the agency last December.