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NYS Is the Top Community Solar Market in the USA

The Helderberg solar farm is a 200kW system, with power supplied by 600 solar panels. It was built in Johnsonville, NY, and went on line January 2017. (Photo: Monolith Solar)

On March 22, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced New York has become the top community solar market in the United States with more than one gigawatt of community solar installed and operational – enough to serve 209,000 homes across the state. New York also has the largest pipeline in the nation with enough community solar under construction to serve an additional 401,000 homes, ensuring continued access to clean affordable solar for all New Yorkers for years to come. This announcement accelerates progress towards meeting the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) goal to generate 70 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and the governor’s goal to achieve 10 gigawatts of solar by 2030.

“Reaching this nation-leading milestone – with more than one gigawatt of community solar installed – is a testament to New York’s aggressive pursuit of clean-energy alternatives that will supercharge our economy and bring us one step closer to a carbon-neutral future,” Governor Hochul said. “New York is once again making clean energy history, and with many families facing the burden of rising energy costs, my administration remains committed to expanding access to solar energy, which will deliver savings and stabilize electricity bills while meeting our aggressive climate goals.”

“Over one gigawatt of progress was made today, enough to power over 200,000 homes across New York State,” said Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin. “When we think about the future of our state, we must think about both the economic prosperity we aim for, in addition to the welfare of our children. Now, when those future generations of New Yorkers look toward today, they’ll know progress was made with them in mind. I’m proud to announce today that New York is the capital of solar power in the United States.”

Community solar supports NYS’s climate leadership and community protection act goal to generate 70% of state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and governor’s goal to achieve 10 GW of solar by 2030.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin made this announcement in Schenectady County at a 7.5-megawatt community solar project that is paired with 10-megawatt hours of energy storage on the site of a former landfill. Located in the town of Glenville, the project was developed by DSD Renewables, who is also the owner and operator of the project. The site is part of a seven-project, 25-megawatt portfolio made possible through a collaboration with the Schenectady County Solar Energy Consortium (https://bit.ly/Schen-Cnty-Solar-Consortium) that provides over $400,000 in energy savings annually to the municipalities and cities of Schenectady County and enables each of the municipalities to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Formed by the county in 2019, the consortium includes the County of Schenectady, City of Schenectady, Town of Duanesburg, Town of Glenville, Town of Niskayuna, Town of Princetown, Town of Rotterdam, Village of Delanson, and Village of Scotia.

Community solar enables access to solar for homeowners, renters, and business owners who may not have ideal conditions to directly install solar panels onsite. Through this arrangement, clean energy is still delivered by a customer’s regular electric providers, and the power produced from the solar array is fed directly back into the electric grid. As the electric grid is supplied with clean, renewable energy, subscribers receive a credit on their electric bills for their portion of the solar system’s output.

Community solar made up 70 percent of total solar installations across the state in 2021. In addition, New York’s distributed solar pipeline is now comprised of more than 708 of these projects totaling 2,300 megawatts, which once completed will help expand access to clean energy for all New Yorkers, including low-to-moderate income (LMI) households and those living in disadvantaged communities (DACs) (https://on.ny.gov/3LjpQdz). This pipeline is complemented by 73 New York State-supported utility-scale solar projects under development throughout the state – together, these projects will deliver enough electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes once completed. The State’s success in deploying community solar is confirmed by the Solar Energy Industry Association and Wood Mackenzie Solar Market Insight 2021 Year in Review report (https://bit.ly/US-Market-Insight), not only ranking New York as the all-time national leader ahead of second-place Minnesota, but also highlighting the Empire State as number one in 2021 for installations – more than double second-place state Massachusetts.

The achievement of this milestone has been underpinned by robust support from NYSERDA’s NY-Sun program, the State’s signature $1.8 billion initiative to advance the scale-up of solar while driving costs down and making solar energy more accessible to homes, businesses, and communities. Currently, installed distributed solar projects, combined with the projects that are under development, bring the State to 95 percent of the current Climate Act goal to install six gigawatts of distributed solar by 2025.

Since 2011, NY-Sun has helped:

  • Support the installation of solar on the rooftop or property of 165,000 homes or businesses spanning every county in New York;
  • Provide over $1.3 billion in incentives, leveraging $6.1 billion in private investment;
  • Drive over 2,500 percent solar growth in the State;
  • Facilitate the delivery of enough clean, renewable energy to power over 627,000 New York homes;
  • Foster 12,000 jobs in the solar industry;
  • Reduce the cost of solar 70 percent in 10 years; and
  • Ensure over $200 million is dedicated to low- to moderate-income (LMI) households, affordable housing, and disadvantaged and environmental justice communities as part of its Solar Energy Equity Framework.

Last fall, Governor Hochul called for an increase to New York’s solar goal to ten gigawatts by 2030. To accomplish this goal, NYSERDA and the Department of Public Service filed a roadmap (https://on.ny.gov/3Lh9K4a) with the Public Service Commission to expand the state’s successful NY-Sun initiative into one of the largest and most inclusive solar programs of its kind in the nation, including continuing incentives for an additional 2,270 megawatts of community solar projects, enough to power an additional nearly 400,000 homes. The roadmap also included ambitious targets for projects located in the downstate region and dedicated incentives for community solar projects service DACs and LMI subscribers, consistent with the Climate Act’s call for at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments be directed to disadvantaged communities. The roadmap also proposes prevailing wage requirements for solar projects greater than one megawatt within the NY-SUN program to promote the continued growth of high-quality solar jobs.

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