Key takeaways


he Empire State, known for its dazzling lights and hustling streets, might soon earn fame for something else – its cutting-edge approach to solar energy. The aim right now is 10 GW of distributed solar by the end of this decade, but the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) suggests Governor Kathy Hochul should raise the bar to an ambitious 20 GW by 2035. What does this imply for New Yorkers, you wonder? What benefits does it bring? Stay with us as SunValue takes a deep dive into these questions.

Solar Panels in NY

Solar installation in front of Queensboro Bridge in New York City. Source: NYSERDA

New York’s Solar Journey

Solar energy in the Big Apple has come a long way since its humble origins in the 70s, now standing as a major contender in the renewable energy league. In 2004, the state made a serious commitment to going green by creating its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The 2012 NY-Sun Initiative aimed to make solar energy both accessible and affordable, and the state's energy vision reform in 2014 further integrated the most efficient solar power into New York's energy plan.

A crucial milestone was reached in 2019 with the adoption of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). This law set forth one of the nation's most aggressive clean energy goals, mandating 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2040, with solar energy playing a crucial role. It offered a solid legislative backbone for efficient solar energy and other renewable alternatives.

In 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled a plan to broaden the NY-Sun's aim to hit 10 GW of distributed solar power by 2030. This was a part of the state's strategy to achieve the CLCPA objectives and turbocharge solar deployment.

Thanks to the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, solar power is enjoying unmatched backing from the federal government. This perfectly fits New York's plans, helping to further spread solar projects across the state. Ranking 8th nationally in the U.S. solar energy landscape, New York takes pride in its 5,834 MW of PV capacity which can power over a million homes. This puts solar energy at around 5.08% of the state's total electric supply.

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Why the Push for More Solar?

The CLCPA created a strong legal structure that promotes solar energy in the state. However, industry leaders from the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) are calling for the state to do more. They say that since the CLCPA came into effect, many major green energy projects have been abandoned, which puts the goal of reaching 70% renewable energy by 2030 at risk. In response, in 2023 Governor Hochul rolled out a 10-point plan to save these large-scale projects. Still, experts argue that there's more work to be done.

“These utility-scale projects are important, but they are not enough to meet New York’s mandates; New York must more than double its renewable energy generation by 2030 to comply with CLCPA, and rapid rooftop and community solar deployment can fill the gap,” – says NYSEIA.

Perks of Aiming Higher

The report from NYSEIA is encouraging the leaders of New York to aim higher with their distributed solar power targets - from their current 10 gigawatts by 2030 goal, to an impressive 20 gigawatts by 2035 (20X35). Now, let's delve a bit deeper into their main reasons for this suggestion. NYSEIA highlights several economic and environmental gains that can be made:

Reduced Utility Bills: They predict that both homes and businesses could enjoy a huge $50 billion drop in utility bills over the coming 25 years. Plus, an extra $28 billion could also be saved indirectly via a more cost-effective CLCPA compliance route.

Community Profit: This proposal could potentially inject a healthy $3.6 billion directly into host communities. This includes a $1.8 billion income for rural landowners and an equal sum in tax revenue for local governments and schools.

New Job Opportunities: The expanded solar initiative is expected to open up a whopping 15,000 new job openings, ranging from managerial posts to on-the-field duties.

Green Progress: The initiative is set to use the most efficient home solar panels instead of fossil fuels, resulting in no emissions and saving the atmosphere from 145 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. It's a serious win for public health, especially in areas suffering the most from environmental problems.

NY Distributed Solar Deployment Forecast (GW)


Stepping Up to New Challenges

Meeting the 20x35 target is a big task that comes with certain policy and infrastructure hurdles. NYSEIA has some key policy suggestions to help New York get there:

Easier Permitting: Cutting the red tape around planning permissions for community and residential solar projects is key. NYSEIA puts forward the idea of statewide backing for small-scale green energy projects as a counter to tight local laws and solar moratoria.

Interconnection Reform: It's equally important to enhance the process of connecting the most efficient solar panels to the grid. Suggestions include speedier timelines, letting people use financial options instead of cash for grid upgrades, and flexible policies to boost grid capacity.

Boosting Hosting Capacity: To handle more power from distributed solar projects, New York needs to invest in improving grid infrastructure, NYSEIA says. The association supports both utility-initiated and market-initiated upgrades to push hosting capacity to the max.

Electric Tariff Changes: The current Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) tariff needs tweaking to make sure there's fair compensation for distributed energy resources. This should also account for the avoided cost of long-distance transmission capacity.

Incentives: Updating the NYS Residential Solar Tax Credit to include energy storage and making it refundable for low-income households can make solar panels cheap and more accessible. Also, extending NYSERDA’s NY-Sun funding to support further capacity is key.

NY 20 Gigawatt Solar Roadmap


Supporting Community Solar

NYSEIA emphasizes the importance of community solar programs. New York State has been leading the way in this area, with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance noting that it had built up an impressive 1721 megawatts of community solar power by 2023's end. This is more than double that of the second highest state, Minnesota.

The organization believes there's still room for growth.  The state can keep spearheading community solar adoption by making billing and crediting more efficient, broadening the scope of consolidated billing, and ensuring a smooth experience for community solar users.

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Setting a bold objective to increase New York's distributed solar target to 20 GW by 2035 is ambitious yet within reach. The outcomes are too enticing to ignore - significant cuts in energy costs, the stimulation of job opportunities, and an enhanced state of environmental and public health. By adopting the necessary policy shifts, New York can set a prime example in the US's journey to a renewable energy-led future.


Key takeaways

  • Ambitious Goal: NYSEIA urges Governor Kathy Hochul to double New York's distributed solar power target from 10 GW by 2030 to 20 GW by 2035.
  • Economic Benefits: Potential savings of $50 billion in utility bills over 25 years, with additional indirect savings and direct financial benefits to host communities.
  • Job Creation: An expanded solar initiative could create 15,000 new jobs in various sectors.
  • Environmental Impact: Significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to improved public health and combating climate change.
  • Policy Recommendations: Streamlining permitting processes, enhancing grid interconnection, boosting hosting capacity, revising electric tariffs, and increasing incentives for solar projects.
  • Community Solar: Emphasis on supporting and expanding community solar programs to further increase solar adoption.
Jul 5, 2024
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