New York nearly doubles goal for distributed solar installations on success of existing incentives

Source: By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive • Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2021


Dive Brief:

  • New York will increase the goal for its NY-Sun distributed solar program to aim for 10 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030, according to a Monday announcement by Governor Kathy Hochul, D. The program was already on track to exceed its original goal of 6 GW by 2025, according to the announcement.
  • The NY-Sun program has so far supported more than 114,000 projects, which complement 73 utility-scale projects currently underway throughout the state, according to the announcement. Expanding the NY-Sun program, a $1.8 billion initiative in effect since 2011 will accelerate the state’s progress toward decarbonization, according to a spokesperson for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
  • Given current forecasts of distributed solar installation in the state, the 10 GW goal seems quite feasible, according to a research analyst for Wood Mackenzie.

Dive Insight:

New York is well on its way to achieving ambitious state-level clean energy goals, said Rachel Goldstein, U.S. solar research analyst at Wood Mackenzie. But to reach the targets currently in discussion at the federal level requires scale on orders of magnitude beyond the New York governor’s announcement, she added.

To achieve Biden’s goal of decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 would require the replacement of at least 800 GW of U.S. generation capacity with renewable sources, Goldstein said in an email. Current forecasts by Wood Mackenzie project the installation of 5.1 GW of distributed solar in New York state by 2026, giving them another four years to hit 10 GW.

“Though we don’t have a current forecast out to 2030, this 10 GW of [distributed] solar seems quite feasible and reasonable to me if the state takes appropriate action,” Goldstein said, noting that a good portion of the growth in distributed solar could come from community solar projects, where New York has seen significant success in recent years.

Governor Hochul’s announcement called on the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Department of Public Service to develop a roadmap for how to achieve the 10 GW goal through the expansion of the NY-Sun project. The roadmap is due out for public comment by early 2022.

“New York State must be more aggressive in setting the bar higher in recognition of the reality of climate change and the closing window of time to stop the worst impacts nationally and globally,” Hochul said in a statement. “With this expansion, we are demonstrating New York State’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy flowing to the electric grid as well as creating more jobs in the solar industry in support of our growing clean energy economy.

Estimates from the Governor’s Office state that 6,000 new jobs and power for 1.7 million homes could be generated through an expansion of the NY-Sun program. The announcement also indicates that 35% of the benefits of the program will be dedicated to disadvantage communities and low- and moderate-income households.

The governor also highlighted two new transmission lines on Monday that will move renewable energy to downstate population centers. Clean Path New York, expected to begin delivering power in 2027, will span 174 miles between Delaware County and Queens, while the Champlain Hudson Power Express, which is expected to be operational by 2025, will run 339 miles and connect Queens to the Province of Quebec.

Both announcements drew praise from industry and environmental groups, who highlighted the potential impact on climate change, disadvantaged communities and the state economy.

“Governor Hochul’s 10 gigawatt target for distributed solar will help us expand rooftop and community solar to even more families in New York, all while cleaning our air, creating high-quality jobs, and strengthening our communities,” Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “New York is already experiencing the impacts of climate change and local, onsite solar and storage projects can help us boost our resilience. The solar industry stands ready to help New York meet this ambitious target.”