Huge potential for ‘low-impact’ solar on Long Island, N.Y., roadmap says


The Long Island Solar Roadmap, a new report and interactive online map from The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife, outlines how Long Island, New York, could produce more electricity than the region uses all year by developing solar arrays on “low-impact” sites such as parking lots, capped landfills, and commercial building rooftops.

The conservation groups said the roadmap found that these solar installations can be deployed without negatively affecting the region’s natural areas, forests, or farmlands.

According to the roadmap, Long Island has enough low-impact siting potential to host nearly 19.5 GW of solar capacity in the form of mid- to large-scale installations 250 kW and larger. That much solar could produce enough electricity to power 4.8 million New York homes each year, more electricity than the Long Island region uses. Around one-third of that total could be sited on parking lots and rooftops; the other two-thirds would be ground-mounted arrays on land already impacted by human activities.

Long Island has enough low-impact siting potential to host nearly 19.5 GW of solar capacity in the form of mid- to large-scale installations.

To address the effects of climate change, New York State has adopted legislation requiring 70% of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. Due to its unique geographic position, Long Island enjoys some of the state’s highest solar resources.

The roadmap found that developing even one-quarter (5 GW) of the island’s low-impact solar potential by 2030 could help meet the state’s clean energy goals. That capacity also would deliver around $10 billion in local economic benefits and an additional $5 billion in earnings for workers in the construction industry.

New York State ranks 10th among the states for installed solar capacity with about 2.5 GW.


The roadmap reflects the input of state, local, and county governments; the solar industry; farmers; environmental and community organizations; utility PSEG Long Island; businesses; and academic institutions. The groups began working in 2018 to design a pathway to speed smart siting of mid- to large-scale solar power.

While Long Island already boasts the highest concentration of residential rooftop solar installations in the state, the development of larger solar projects would enable more residents, like renters, to benefit.

More than 90% of Long Islanders surveyed in 2019 said they favored solar development in their communities.

Barriers to low-impact solar development remain, however. For example, farmers who are open to developing solar on their land have faced local zoning and policy issues, and have lacked technical, legal, and financial assistance. The roadmap outlined approaches to help address these barriers.

The roadmap’s methodology included three main research components: public surveys, economic analysis of the costs and benefits of solar development, and geospatial analysis.

Public opinion research conducted in 2019 for the report found 92% of surveyed Long Islanders in favor of solar development in their communities.

Spatial data scientists from The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation used mapping techniques to identify low-impact sites for solar arrays in Nassau and Suffolk counties and to show their energy generation potential.

The data is available as a public map that may be used by municipal officials, property owners, and solar developers to identify potential sites that offer the least impact to the environment.

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