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New York Steps Up Its Solar Game

The recent announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the state plans to add nearly $1 billion to its two-year-old NY-Sun Initiative is undoubtedly a huge step forward for solar deployment in the state. It not only reflects state legislators’ long-range view on solar deployment but is also a testament to the healthy appetite New Yorkers have for solar adoption. The goal of NY-Sun is to support the deployment of three gigawatts of solar by 2023; thus far, it has propelled hundreds of megawatts of solar installs and has helped employ more than 3,300 New Yorkers.

There’s no doubt that the boost in funding and what it says about New York’s solar future is big news, but perhaps what’s more exciting is the design of the program itself.

Lawmakers cherry-picked the most successful elements from programs in the two top solar states in the nation, California and Massachusetts, to create an overall program that is substantially more progressive than anywhere else in the country. Top solar states have learned that having a robust solar incentive program doesn’t stop at writing the check. It requires supportive net-metering policies, robust financing options, a focus on public entities and encouraging local government support, to name a few.

The new program is not official yet; it’s currently up for public opinion and then will need to be approved by the Public Service Commission. Let’s take a look at what makes the program so exciting and how it sets the stage for rapid maturity:

  • Declining megawatt block incentive — Based on the California Solar Initiative, incentive amounts would drop down in a staircase fashion as more megawatts are installed. The success of this structure, which New York plans to implement in 2015, is in how it encourages competition to install solar at a continually reduced cost and attracts investment.
  • Net-metering — In addition, because New York allows for utility customers to install solar at separate locations from where they are going to be using the energy, solar is open to more customers and allows for more flexibility when planning an installation. This follows the Massachusetts model, which has been a runaway success.
  • K-Solar — This program supports solar development at schools by providing incentives, financing and technical assistance to administrators.

New York’s ambitious plans for a secure and green energy future don’t stop with NY-Sun. The state is also pursuing an effort to modernize the grid’s transmission and distribution systems, which will inevitably better support higher concentrations of solar energy. The Green Bank is a prime example of other initiatives underway to support clean energy. Launched last year, the $1 billion Green Bank is in partnership with the private sector to remove financing market barriers in the clean energy sector.

If this new program is enacted, New York is set to take a major leap forward in clean energy and carbon reduction over the next few years, giving California and Massachusetts some competition as the country’s top solar leaders.

Lead image: New York map via Shutterstock

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Ms. Amy McDonough is a Project Developer for Borrego Solar and works from the company’s regional headquarters in Lowell, Massachusetts. Amy primarily focuses on developing large-scale comprehensive solar power installations for commercial real est...

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