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A Solar Economy

Maziarz bill could help state produce new source of energy — and new jobs

If New York wants to position itself at the epicenter of the country’s growing renewable energy industry — producing new jobs and economic opportunity — then legislators must act.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, has a bill, the New York Solar Jobs Act (S.4178). An identical bill was introduced in the Assembly by Steve Englebright, D-Setauket (A.5713).

Maziarz must continue the push to move strong legislation out of the Senate Energy Committee and onto the floor. In the Assembly, the bill is in the Ways and Means Committee. The New York Solar Jobs Act would be significant for the state and region in developing a solar energy economy. The bill could set the stage for high-quality employment for a range of skill sets, mainly related to development and installation. In other words, these are local jobs that cannot be outsourced.

As an example, the New York Power Authority chose a local company, Solar Liberty, for the two largest installations in the state — a 250-kilowatt installation at a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority facility and a 5,000-panel 1.1-megawatt installation at the University at Buffalo North Campus.

Moreover, the bill would send the right message to the global solar industry in setting a target of producing 5,000 megawatts by 2025, enough to power 500,000 average households, equivalent to 3 percent of the state’s total electric load.

While it’s still only a small piece of the spectrum, it’s hard to deny solar power markets are proving to be steady, gradual new hopes of job creation. Still, New York has a photovoltaic capacity representing only 3 percent of the national share, or 54 megawatts.

The state has taken some important early steps to deploy solar — the New York Power Authority’s efforts and those of the the Long Island Power Authority, each with separate obligations in terms of percent of annual load. Yet we have still fallen short of neighboring states’ market development policies.

For example, New Jersey has a goal to achieve more than 5,000 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2026. And it added 137.1 megawatts of new photovoltaic capacity in 2010, more than double New York’s entire solar capacity.

There are positive signs for the legislation. Maziarz must ensure that this bill to drive solar energy and create a viable job market does not get watered down. The governor should help bring both sides to the middle.

New York should be at the forefront on solar energy. This bill could help push us there.

Buffalo News Editorial