New York REV helps solar power grow more than 300 percent in 3 years

Solar power in New York has grown more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014 — twice the rate of U.S. solar growth overall, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced recently.

The significant increase affirms the value of Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, which includes the $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.

“The Empire State is rapidly becoming a leader in clean energy technology, and that means greener and more sustainable communities for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “Through the $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, we’re making solar a reality in virtually every corner of the state and building a brighter future today. I am proud to see New York pulling well ahead of the national average for the growing solar industry and look forward to seeing that momentum continue in the years to come.”

As part of REV, the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative is significantly expanding the use of solar throughout New York as it becomes a sustainable, subsidy-free industry already supporting thousands of jobs.

A total of 314.48 MW of solar electric was installed as of December 2014 across the state, equivalent to powering more than 51,000 homes. The substantial growth is attributed to a combination of factors, including the NY-Sun initiative, decline in solar electric component prices, and growth in the number of installer businesses marketing solar electric directly to consumers.

“Reforming the Energy Vision is already working to increase access for more and more New Yorkers to realize the benefits of local, clean energy,” said Richard Kauffman, chairman of energy and finance for New York. “New York state’s booming solar industry is driven by individual and community interest in cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy, and Reforming the Energy Vision and NY-Sun are making it easier for businesses to meet this growing demand.”

Solar capacity tripled, quadrupled or quintupled in every region of the state other than Long Island, which has more installations than any other region. In addition, numbers of projects at least doubled in every region. The largest increase in percentage of megawatts was in the North Country, followed by the Finger Lakes, Central New York and New York City.

The following shows the percentage increase of megawatts of solar capacity and projects installed in each region across the state from 2011 to 2014:

 

Region MW Installed Increase Projects Installed Increase
Capital Region 500% 240%
Central New York 519% 299%
Finger Lakes 533% 193%
Long Island 154% 122%
Mid-Hudson 421% 296%
Mohawk Valley 475% 365%
New York City 516% 548%
North Country 573% 153%
Southern Tier 486% 144%
Western New York 216% 171%

 

In addition, as of May 2015, more than 304 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) was under contract, not yet installed, with an additional 65.6 MW of applications accepted, not yet contracted.

Click here for maps that show megawatts of solar capacity for counties in each region and a chart showing pre-NY-Sun vs. post-NY-Sun figures.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar energy is the fastest-growing energy technology in the U.S:

  • Solar capacity grew in the U.S. by 146 percent from 2011 to 2014.
  • Installed solar PV system prices in the U.S. have dropped steadily — by 8 percent from 2013 to 2014 and 49 percent from 2010.
  • More than 538 solar companies are at work throughout the value chain in New York, employing more than 7,000 people.
  • New York ranked seventh in the country for installed PV capacity in 2014, up from ninth a year earlier.

“This exceptional solar growth demonstrates that New York state is doing what needs to be done to scale up this renewable resource and move toward a sustainable solar industry,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “NYSERDA will continue to build on this momentum and work toward Gov. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy to create a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.”

An important pillar of REV is the proposed Clean Energy Fund, a $5 billion investment over the next 10 years in clean energy programs. The Clean Energy Fund encompasses four portfolios: Market Development, Innovation and Research, NY Green Bank and NY-Sun.

In 2014, the governor committed nearly $1 billion to NY-Sun to significantly expand deployment of solar capacity throughout the state and transform New York’s solar industry to a sustainable, incentive-free sector. NY-Sun involves deploying public funds in a strategic manner to drive industry to scale and reduce burdens on ratepayers. It provides support for solar projects and uses a proven Megawatt Block system approach that is responsive to market conditions, allowing the solar market in each region of the state to grow at its own pace. It also includes support for work to decrease balance-of-system costs (everything except the cost of solar modules and inverters) through streamlined permitting, reduced acquisition costs and training of code officials and first responders.

Additional efforts under NY-Sun, such a Community Solar NY and K-Solar, also are helping homeowners, small businesses and schools throughout the state gain greater access to clean energy through economies of scale from soliciting bids for multiple projects at one time.

Kevin Bailey is the owner of High Peaks Solar in Wynantskill.

“The growth of my PV installation company has been tremendous over the past seven years, and we have been nearly doubling or tripling our growth in sales and installation capacity every year over the past five years,” Bailey said. “Thanks to Gov. Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative, the price of photovoltaic technology, including solar modules and inverters, has been rapidly decreasing. This has led to increased access to more people and more work for installation companies like High Peaks Solar.”

Gordon Woodcock, a renewables department manager at Taitem Engineering in Ithica, has a similar story.

“Taitem Engineering’s renewables department has more than doubled in size over the past year, thanks to support through the NY-Sun initiative; low-cost, accessible financing through Green Jobs-Green New York; and innovative customer outreach programs such as Solar Tompkins and Solarize Southern Tier,” he said. “We have added technical staff, sales and marketing professionals and experienced contractors while also training entry-level installers. Our diversity hiring initiatives have supported this growth and shown that the renewable energy industry provides opportunity for our entire community.”

Jeff Irish is the founder and president of Hudson Solar in Rhinebeck and Albany. His solar design and installation company is entirely New York-based.

“Our Capital District and Hudson Valley solar installations and employment have both been growing at double-digit annual rates recently,” Irish said. “Hudson Solar’s mission is to help our region move to a better energy future, and we’re continuing to invest in our business and our experienced local team to do so.”

And in Buffalo, Adam K. Rizzo is president of Solar Liberty.

“This year, we plan to install more residential and commercial systems than anytime in Solar Liberty’s history,” Rizzo said. “We are proud to be partnered with NYSERDA since our company’s inception in 2003 and look forward to continuing to expand our business in New York state.”

Under the REV initiative, New York will spur clean energy innovation, bring in new investments, improve consumer choice while protecting the environment and energize New York’s economy. This pioneering approach provides New Yorkers new opportunities for energy savings, local power generation and enhanced reliability.

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