New York is a 2 GW solar state

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What was billed as the opening of the state’s newest community solar project became a monumental day in New York solar history. The installation, a 6.12 MW project developed by ForeFront Power in Mechanicville, put New York at over 2 GW of solar installed. The Empire State has now become the 9th in the country to have more than 2 GW of solar capacity installed.

The milestone also keeps New York on track to achieve the statewide target of installing 6 GW of solar by 2025.

“Solar energy is a vital part of New York’s Green New Deal strategy to transition to a clean energy future, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “The success of this initiative demonstrates we are on the path to meeting our nation-leading climate goals, and our clean energy agenda is spurring economic growth and jobs while leaving this planet cleaner and greener for generations to come.”

New York is in an especially interesting spot as it positions itself as a national solar leader. While nearly every state within the “2 GW installed” club is home to massive utility-scale projects, New York’s greatest potential lies in distributed generation. The state has no shortage when it comes to rooftops, a resource that is currently being used to develop a a 316 MW / 2528 MWh (that’s 8 hours) energy storage facility (pdf). Furthermore, a study done by City University of New York early in the decade found that 66.4% of all rooftops in New York city were suitable for solar installations, totaling well over 5 GW in capacity.

As for the immediate future of New York solar, it would appear that more positive news is on the horizon. There are 1,262 MW of solar projects currently under development, as reported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). These 1,200 MW include 351 community solar projects, an impressive figure when you consider that community solar really took off for the first time in New York in 2019. New York’s community solar market is serving roughly 14,000 subscribers across the state.

SEIA estimates that New York will install 3.6 GW total solar over the next 5 years, meaning that in the final year, the state will have to install just 379 MW to achieve the 6 GW goal. That 3.6 GW figure is the 7th most aggressive projection in the nation over that time period.

As we enter the new decade, New York is poised to be one of the states leading the energy transition. And, in typical New York fashion, it will do so to the beat of its own drum. While California, Florida and Texas boast gargantuan utility-scale projects, NYSERDA has filed a petition with the New York State Public Service Commission requesting an additional $573 million to expand the NY-Sun program, which focuses on distributed generation projects. Of that $573 million, $135 million are to be dedicated to activities focused on low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, affordable housing, environmental justice communities, and disadvantaged communities. If this information is to be trusted, New York could well be leading an energy transition by the people, for the people.