State increases solar capacity by 300 percent

Capital New York | July 6, 2015 | Column by David Giambusso

New York State has increased its solar capacity by 300 percent over the past four years, the Cuomo administration said Monday, and state environmental leaders are applauding the progress.

Solar panels. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

"I think they have a big success story here," said Conor Bambrick, air and energy director for Environmental Advocates of New York, a group that is not shy about criticizing Governor Andrew Cuomo. "I think they're right to highlight it."

According to the administration, 314.5 megawatts of new solar panels were installed between 2011 and 2014because of a confluence of factors, the two biggest being falling prices and more than $1 billion in state money to encourage solar development under the NY-Sun initiative, which provides financial incentives to homeowners and businesses wanting to install solar.

"I think the basic external reality is that solar technology is improving so the cost of solar hardware is coming down," John Rhodes, president and C.E.O. of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said in an interview. "We knew that was happening, we knew that was going to continue to happen and that's part of the reason that we did NY-Sun at the scale we did it and the time we did it."

The North Country, Finger Lakes region, central New York and New York City saw the biggest jumps in solar installations, each showing a more than a 500-percent increase since 2011, state officials said. Another 304 megawatts of solar is under contract as of May, they said.

New York City, though, is still the area most in need of a significant influx of solar capacity.

"That's something that they have to continue to work on. That's the load center," Bambrick said of the city. "If you can figure out how to make solar work in New York City that's going to to be affordable ... that's going to have global implications."

Rhodes said every region of the state would continue to see new investment in solar.

"We want to do it everywhere," he said. "I don't know if you like puns but there are places in the state where solar is really hot."

Rhodes said places like Long Island and Westchester, which have a lot of solar already, would continue to see investment as would places where more is needed, including the city, the North Country and the Southern Tier.

A state map detailing where the new solar was installed can be viewed here.

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.