Through New Laws and Innovation, New York Forges Ahead on Clean Energy

, director of state policy & analysis, Clean Energy | October 28, 2011, 3:43 pm EDT
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Earlier this week, I attended the annual conference of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACENY), an organization that represents the common interests of businesses and environmental groups in support of promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Empire State.  This year’s theme was “From Innovation to Implementation”, and the agenda had a lot to offer on both fronts.

New siting law supports renewable energy

New York is one of the few states to strengthen clean energy laws so far this year, and conference attendees were briefed on the progress in implementing a couple of them.  For example, the Power NY Act, enacted in June, renews a long-expired power plant siting law known as Article X (ten), but adds strong protections for public participation, community impacts, and air quality effects. Article X affects all types of power plant proposals larger than 25 megawatts, but the law’s more streamlined and centralized processes should give a boost to the development of wind power and other clean energy projects in the state. The NY Department of Public Service has until next summer to finalize regulations implementing Article X, but they expect to launch a new website posting draft rules and including background information for interested stakeholders in the next few months.

Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes

For my money though, the most interesting panel of the conference focused on the exciting work that New York is doing in the area of clean energy innovation. Panelists talked about how New York is emerging as a national and global leader in both developing energy storage technologies and using nano-scale science and engineering to enhance renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. But as Tria Case, Director of Sustainability for the City University of New York (Sustainable CUNY), aptly reminded the audience, innovation cannot just be about advances in the clean energy technologies themselves. To succeed in transitioning to a sustainable energy system, it is also critical to promote innovation in workforce development and in enabling new markets to flourish.

LiDAR data visualization showing how points are used to build a 3D model of New York city

Sustainable CUNY used Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data to create a solar map of New York City. Here, a LiDAR data visualization shows how points are used to build a 3D model of the city. (Source: Sustainable CUNY)

To illustrate the latter, Ms. Case showcased the New York City Solar Map, an interactive online tool launched in 2010 that shows the solar energy potential for every building in the entire city, simply by typing in the address. Following the lead of similar endeavors in Boston and San Francisco, the NYC solar map helps reduce barriers to deploying solar power in the nation’s largest city by making it much easier for interested parties to take the first step in determining if their building is right for solar. Next up for Sustainable CUNY is a joint project with utility and city officials to develop an online inter-agency permitting system that will streamline the solar installation process down from 1 year to just 100 days. Cutting excessive red tape in city government, now that’s innovation!

ACENY is making many of the conference presentations available for download. Take a look, and I’ll hope to see you in person at next year’s event.

Posted in: Energy

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  • edgar gehlert

    N.Y. government at all levels (Schools) should be looking to LEASE buildings and property for Solar and Wind where doable. Jobs, clean energy and money at back end::

    My County here in Conservative TN. (Hawkins) Schools just did a lease arrangement for SOLAR::

    • Good suggestion, Edgar. New York has a solar on schools program, called School Power Naturally , but the state could be doing much more to support distributed generation scale renewable energy on public buildings. Solar PV leases have emerged as popular and innovative way to finance projects, with several major solar companies now offering them. In New York, one of the quickest and effective ways to jump start the solar market would be for the state legislature to pass the Solar Jobs Act, a bill that would require 5,000 megawatts of solar installations over the next 15 years. Unfortunately, action on the bill has been deferred til next year’s legislative session, but a strong coalition of solar supporters, including UCS, will be pushing for its passage.