In a big victory for renewable energy in a State already known for being progressively supportive of renewable energy, a New York Administrative Law Judge ruled favorably on the renewable energy requirement announced by Governor George Pataki to generate 25% of New York’s electricity from renewable sources by 2013, up from about 18%.Washington D.C. – June 8, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The favorable Recommended Decision comes on the heels of announcements regarding two large wind energy projects in the state: the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) is finalizing the selection of a developer to construct a 140-MW offshore wind farm, and the NY Public Service Commission (PSC) recently provided the necessary approvals for a 300-MW wind project in up-state New York. These successive announcements bode well for the Governor’s renewable energy initiative, which was unveiled about a year ago. “Wind power is a technology of choice for the 21st century and for New York,” said the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Executive Director Randall Swisher. AWEA was one of a host of renewable energy associations helping to push ahead the RPS measure which could have positive benefits for all the clean-energy industries. “The state’s winds provide an inexhaustible, clean, domestic source of power and can offset volatility in the cost of natural gas,” Swisher said. “Wind power is a good investment for customers, a good investment for the economy, and a good investment for the environment.” The decision includes recommendations on key issues such as what energy resources will be included in the definition of “renewable,” annual percentage increases, and estimates of the likely costs and benefits expected to result from the RPS. Energy sources included in the recommendation are wind, solar, tidal, fuel cells, hydroelectric, biomass, and biogas. Burning municipal garbage was excluded due to environmentalists’ concerns of resulting pollution and odors. In terms of solar energy, the Judge’s recommended decision also calls for $10.5 million per year for solar buy-downs, which would result in at least another 20 megawatts of solar installed in the state by 2013, creating a multi-megawatt annual market where there previously was very little activity according to Colin Murchie Director of Government Affairs, for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This is one of the first few truly solar-friendly RPS,” Murchie said. Murchie said a New York RPS could also foster strong regional synergies with NJ and possibly, Pennsylvania. SEIA was a lead negotiator in New Yorks’ RPS process for the past two years in addition to AWEA which has been striving to boost wind energy production in the state. In addition to the solar buy-downs, the Judge recommended that all wind energy facilities be eligible for the RPS, and that the first compliance period be 2006. The State Public Service Commission must approve the decision before the RPS moves forward. “The Recommended Decision clearly shows that the RPS will provide real benefits to New York,” said Douglas Ward of AWEA’s Northeast Policy Project. “A commitment to renewable energy such as the RPS proposed by Governor Pataki and being implemented by the Public Service Commission will provide documented improvements in air quality, decreased reliance on imported fuel and economic development opportunities for all New Yorkers.” The LIPA 140-MW offshore project, when completed, will generate enough to power the equivalent of over 40,000 average American households. There are currently no offshore wind farms operating in the U.S., although some have been proposed, including one off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The project will undergo extensive environmental and regulatory review by numerous regulatory entities before construction can begin, according to LIPA. Flat Rock, in upstate New York, is a 300 MW facility to be developed jointly by Atlantic Renewable Energy Corporation and Zilkha Renewable Energy, which when fully built will be the largest wind energy facility in eastern North America. Much of Governor Pataki’s renewable energy requirement is expected to come from wind power because of wind energy’s competitive cost and abundant potential. According to AWEA, New York’s wind energy potential is higher than California’s, which currently has over 2,000 MW of wind energy capacity installed and generates the largest amount of wind power in the U.S.