If renewable energy is driven by innovation and creativity, then the state of New Jersey has taken these driving forces to a new extreme.

The Garden State is cementing an already well-established reputation as a leader in green power with its latest initiative and, in so doing, throwing a twist into the typical method of solar power installations and a clever way to cut costs.

Some time this year, the state’s largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas Co., will complete an ambitious and original project that entails the installation of solar panels on the top of pre-existing power poles throughout the utility’s service area. When completed, 175,000 solar panels will be installed in over 300 municipalities.

Each panel measures about 2½ feet high by 5 feet wide and will be installed about 15 feet off the ground. Collectively, the installed panels are expected to generate about 40 megawatts of electricity. Power will be distributed directly into the grid.

The panels were provided by New Jersey-based Petra Solar and feature smart grid technology that allows for real-time communication between panels and a control center, to leading more reliable and stable distribution.

Each panel costs about $1,200. Overall, the project is expected to cost some $200 million. However, the utility is saving a large sum on capital costs by installing solar cells on poles that it already owns and using existing wires to tie the panels into the grid.

The project will help the utility meet a state requirement that 3.5 percent of its electricity be generated from solar by 2021.