In the future, the state of New York won’t be known only for its world-famous city and picturesque northern landscape, rather it may soon also be known for its renewable energy projects. Two interesting developments this week should start to attract developers of larger solar and wind power projects to various regions in the state.
In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the NY-Sun Initiative, a plan that brought together the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to help develop and fund a solar energy expansion plan. The goal is to double the amount of non-ultility owned solar power installed annually in New York, and quadruple that amount by 2013.
Yesterday, LIPA announced a CLEAN solar initiative, otherwise known as a feed-in tariff to spur up to 50 MW of commercial and large-scale solar projects in its region over the next two years. Under the program, LIPA will purchase all of the energy generated by local solar projects at a fixed-rate of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years. Projects must be at least 50 kilowatts (kW) in size so residential systems won’t qualify. LIPA said that it expects the largest projects to be in the 3-MW range. The program is capped at 50 MW.
Notably, the state of New York recognized that balance of systems (BOS) costs must be reduced in order for solar to be competitive. As part of the NY-Sun initiative, the state created the NY-Sun BOS initiative, which will work with private and public partners across New York State to try to implement statewide standardization and streamlining of the procedures for permitting and interconnection, and development and training.
On the topic of permitting, the NY Public Service Commission (PSC) has just completed the comment period for rulemaking on the somewhat controversial “Article 10.” In a nutshell (and straight from the PSC website), “Article 10 provides for the siting review of new and repowered or modified major electric generating facilities in New York State by the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board) in a unified proceeding instead of requiring a developer or owner of such a facility to apply for numerous state and local permits.” New projects must be at least 25 MW in size to qualify for state siting board review.
For renewable energy, Article 10 specifically addresses wind farm siting and permitting, which often faces challenging and aggressive local opposition. Essentially it gives the state the ability to approve wind farms and takes some of the oversight from local governments. Major industry players like Iberdrola and EDP Renewables are strongly in favor of the measure.
As you might imagine, there are opponents to the article as well. Resident Mary Kay Barton said, “what’s at stake is our long-held, constitutional right to ‘home rule’ — the right to decide for ourselves what we want our communities to look like 20, 40, and 60 years down the road,” in an op-ed she wrote for The Daily News.
Local towns and municipalities are fearful of having less oversight in what is built within their borders. The PSC will make a final determination on rulemaking for Article 10 sometime this summer.
Like it or not, New York State is embracing renewables in a big way – encouraging the development of solar and big wind. Our readers have supported the state in its initiatives so far. Last February, the 32-MW solar farm at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island was selected at the Readers’ Choice Project of the Year.
Perhaps Sinatra was right about New York. For renewables, "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." We’ll see.