WHITE PLAINS—The Board of Trustees of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) today authorized a new solar energy initiative—the NY-Sun Solar Market Acceleration Program (Solar MAP)—to provide up to $30 million, over five years, for solar photovoltaic (PV) research, training and demonstration projects, with the goal of achieving cost reductions for wider use of solar energy. The program is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative, announced during his 2012 State of the State Address, which calls for expanding solar capacity in New York State while lowering its cost to protect ratepayers.
“New York State has the expertise and experience to significantly increase the use of solar energy by developing and implementing new technologies to create jobs and make solar energy more affordable,” said Governor Cuomo. “As part of NY-Sun, the new Solar Market Acceleration Program complements existing state incentive programs, such as those at NYSERDA and LIPA, with the aim to maximize the benefits of this clean renewable resource.”
“Solar energy is a clean energy technology that can be installed in any number of ways to help power a variety of consumer uses,” said Michael Townsend, chairman, Board of Trustees, NYPA. “By helping to implement Governor Cuomo’s goals to increase the use of solar energy, while being focused on reducing the bottom line for solar energy costs, the Power Authority is dedicating up to $30 million to research, develop, implement and train for the next generation of solar energy technologies.”
“In the 2012 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo called for greatly expanding New York’s solar programs through the NY-Sun Initiative, while stressing the need to keep a firm eye on solar costs to protect ratepayers,” said Gil C. Quiniones, president and chief executive officer, NYPA. “The NY-Sun Solar Market Acceleration Program is designed to target and reduce solar development costs to spur New York’s technology leadership in this important renewable energy market.”
The Governor’s NY-Sun initiative will expand the solar deployment incentive programs administered by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). In addition, NY-Sun calls for expanding to the commercial sector the New York solar sales tax exemption currently available only to homeowners. NYPA’s Solar MAP is designed to complement the NY-Sun initiatives by targeting research to help reduce solar PV costs thereby allowing the NYSERDA and LIPA incentive programs to be more cost effective.
“I applaud NYPA’s initiative and look forward to working in partnership to advance the Governor’s NY-Sun initiative. Solar power is a growing clean-energy resource in New York State and important to the state’s diverse renewable energy portfolio,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., president and chief executive officer, NYSERDA. “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, our mutual efforts to further reduce PV costs will serve to stimulate even greater growth and deployment of solar technology in New York.”
Solar MAP builds on NYPA’s solar research and demonstration program that has played a leadership role in building New York’s solar industry over the last 25 years. Solar MAP will provide, through competitive solicitations, activities in three main areas: research for innovative solar technology, demonstration projects and soft-cost reduction strategies.
Research efforts will support the development of innovative, cost-saving solar equipment including mounting racks, power inverters, monitoring devices and other system components. Through Solar MAP, NYPA will engage the services of research institutions, technology development companies and technical consultants to provide research studies in connection with reducing solar equipment costs. In addition, Solar MAP will support collaboration between NYPA and NYSERDA to encourage research in connection with solar panel and balance-of-system cost reductions.
Solar demonstration projects will validate advanced, newly developed solar PV technology performance, system integration strategies, cost reductions and safety. Demonstration sites will also serve as technology laboratories and centers for training and education.
Solar soft-cost reduction strategies will consist of technical studies and analysis performed in close coordination with state and local entities and distribution utilities to standardize solar permitting and streamline solar grid integration. As part of this effort, solar training programs will be coordinated with local permitting authorities and fire departments.
NYPA will coordinate with NYSERDA and other industry stakeholders to develop program priorities, and share expertise and results. Collaboration will also be sought from federal energy entities and others to secure research dollars for New York.
The trustees today also authorized closure of the competitive solicitation for NYPA’s100 MW Statewide Photovoltaic Initiative, introduced in 2010, without making an award. Under this initiative, private solar developers would own and operate solar power systems at public facilities throughout New York State. The public-private program, as conceived, found that complex challenges and the diverse needs of customers to be served were factors that would have limited the success of the program. The challenges included the proposed 20-year length for an estimated $20 million annual subsidy, from NYPA cover the cost-premium between solar and retail energy. Public facilities were also reluctant to sign long-term leases with private developers due to risks from lease terminations or temporary site closures, leaving NYPA at risk to cover potential default penalties. The 100 MW Initiative also offered limited local manufacturing support as much of equipment purchased would come from outside the state.
Solar MAP is the latest facet of NYPA’s efforts to advance solar power around the state. Since the early 1990s, the Power Authority, whose hydroelectric projects make it the leading supplier of renewable power in the state, has undertaken the installation of 100 solar PV projects totaling three megawatts (MW) of solar PV systems at NYPA customer and public facilities in various New York regions. The installations range from the Buffalo Museum of Science to the Executive Mansion in Albany to the Power Authority’s main office building in White Plains to the Queens Botanical Garden.
NYPA is currently working in partnership with the University at Buffalo (UB) to install 5,000 solar PV panels on its North Campus to generate power for a total of 735 student apartments housing nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, with that initiative expected to be completed in 2012. NYPA also teamed with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority on a solar installation at the transit agency’s Frontier Garage in Buffalo, using a Buffalo-area firm specializing in solar energy, Solar Liberty of Williamsville, that is also involved in the ongoing work for the UB project.
In addition, the Power Authority spearheaded a solar PV incentive program for the residential and commercial customers of municipal and rural electric cooperative systems that are served by NYPA around the state. Under this program, which recently concluded, NYPA provided financial incentives for encouraging the acquisition of PV installations by helping to lower capital investment costs. This contributed to installations at 50 system locations.
The Power Authority’s efforts to spur development of solar power have also been reflected by allocations of lower-cost power under various programs administered by NYPA. In Western New York, for example, they’ve included Niagara hydropower allocations to Globe Specialty Metals for the company’s reopening and expansion of a $60 million facility in Niagara Falls for the manufacture of silicon for solar power systems and for 500 jobs; and to Precision Electro Minerals, a Niagara Falls manufacturers of fused silica, for solar-panel grade silicon and other industrial products, for creating 13 additional jobs.
■ The New York Power Authority uses no tax money or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity. ■ NYPA is a leader in promoting energy efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives. ■ It is the nation’s largest state public power organization, with 17 generating facilities in various parts of New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. ■ Approximately 80 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower. Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state. ■ For more information, www.nypa.gov
By: Connie M. Cullen, NYPA