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New Report: Solar Capacity in New York Grew 30% in 2013

By: Long Island Exchange |

Today, Environment New York Research & Policy Center released a new report: “Lighting the Way” showing strong solar growth across the nation including a 30%increase in New York in 2013. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.

New York’s progress on solar has helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, solar capacity in New York grew from 175 MW to 250 MW.

“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in New York and across the country,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York. “Thanks to the commitment of New York’s leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet New York’s goal of a 44% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.”

Democratic Conference Leader, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers, said, “Let’s make New York number one for solar energy use. We may not be in the top ten states now, according to Environment New York’s report, but we are committed with our government partners to expand solar because using the sun to generate electricity makes sense and reduces greenhouse gases.”

Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years. In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States. Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89% of the solar installed in the U.S, while, representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.

And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installation decreases; making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013.  Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 5,000 in New York.

“I am cheered by the belief that our collective conscience is at a tipping point, and that folks are waking up to the fact that renewable energy is the path to a healthy future for our planet, and our existence. Solar, wind, water power will guide our way,” added Weschester County Legislator Catherine Parker. “I believe good news is upon us. New York State while an honorable mention today for its use of solar, has paved a way for New Yorkers to embrace solar, not as an alternative energy, something to be tossed into the mix like a cherry on an ice cream sundae, but as a renewable, dependable, affordable choice for running our businesses, our homes, our cars.  We have leaders who get this, who understand that solar power is not just for states like California, Arizona, and those that have warmer climates. Those of us who see what countries like Germany have done, know that we can get there too. It just takes persistence to keep banging the drum, and Environment New York is banging that drum today.”

Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions.  According to the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.

“Environment New York’s report on solar states identifies and fosters an open forum for discussion of the smartest next steps that states can take now to capture the value and grow the market for solar power in a manner that protects ratepayers and strengthens the reliability of our grid while boosting clean energy jobs and the clean energy economy” saidTom Thompson of New York Solar Energy Society.

Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states, like New York helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”

  •  9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
  • 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
  • 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

Here in New York, solar progress is attributed to a number of programs; including; Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative.

“New York officials deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar energy and taking action to make it a reality,” said Leibowitz. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we’re confident clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of New York’s plan to reduce pollution from power plants.”

“The Solarize Westchester team is proud to be part of New York State’s ambitious efforts to maximize the economic and environmental benefits from solar technology,” said Nina Orvillefrom Solarize Westchester. “Through the Solarize Westchester initiative, we are focused on driving down the non-hardware costs of solar installations to make Westchester County New York State’s leader in solar installations.  Our efforts include assisting Westchester municipalities to adopt solar-friendly permitting and zoning policies and also leading Solarize campaigns, aggregating demand for solar installations at reduced costs, in eight Westchester communities.  We anticipate that these campaigns will result in approximately 400 installations during these 20-week campaigns. We’re proud to have the support of our funder, NYSERDA, and to work to deliver great results in Westchester County that can be replicated elsewhere in New York State.”