NY Renewable Goals Facing Mixed Costs

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After forming the United States Climate Alliance with California, and Washington to uphold the Paris climate agreement, Governor Cuomo announced that New York State is accelerating growth in the renewable energy sector —which could lead to cheap electricity rates from Manhattan to Buffalo.

On June 2, Governor Cuomo announced a new state initiative of $1.5 billion to help create 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020 and double the state’s solar power capacity by the end of 2018. NYPA will also install more than 125 megawatts of solar capacity on schools and other public buildings by 2020.

If that sounds like an expensive proposal, recent news about lower solar costs indicate otherwise. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA), the price of utility scale solar hit ¢99 in January. That’s down from $1.50 in September.

New York currently ranks 10th nationwide for solar with has 1,011.9 MW of installed solar capacity. Most installations in the state are residential solar.

But New York’s main problem historically has been all the generation capacity is upstate while demand is downstate. In fact, two thirds of the demand is down state. According to a NYISO study, current transmission capacity needs to be expanded and improved in several parts of the state to reduce transmission congestion. Additional generation capacity built up state will need grid enhancements. For example, currently the primary transmission moving power eastward out of the Niagara area consist of two 345-kV lines and three 230-kV lines, plus several underlying 115-kV lines. Typically, transmission gets constrained between the Niagara and Gardenville substations. Costs associated with delayed transmission increase that electricity’s price.

NYISO’s Power Trend 2017 report highlights the need to incorporate Distributed Energy Resources for local use but also states, “Transmission enhancements will relieve constraints on the system, making more effective use of current and future renewable resources.”

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