State to speed up renewable projects; more control relinquished to municipalities

— Map created by Marcello Iaia

The circles are located at electrical substations into which solar arrays can feed the energy they produce. The larger the circle, the more arrays that feed into the substation. The white circles indicate proposed solar projects. The gray circles indicate completed solar projects. The map is based on information from National Grid, collected by New York State.

 Included in the adoption of the 2020-21 state budget was the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, which will allow New York State to “dramatically speed up the siting and construction” of clean energy projects over 20 megawatts in size, accord to the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority. 

When the act was first introduced in February, projects between 10 and 25 megawatts would have been allowed to opt into the state-run process. 

In July 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo had signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires 70 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030, and, by 2040, the state’s electricity sector is to be “100-percent carbon-free.”

To help the state get to that goal, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act will streamline the environmental review and permitting of renewable-energy projects of 25 megawatts and greater — in part, by excluding local municipalities from much of the decision-making process — while also allowing projects between 20 and 25 megawatts to opt into the process. 

Locally, there are currently about 15 renewable-energy projects in the National Grid interconnection queue (projects looking to tie into the utility’s electricity grid) that are in various stages of proposal — some have already been approved by local planning boards while others have yet to be presented to the municipality in which they are proposed to be built. (The queue was last updated in January.)

None of the proposed local projects in the National Grid interconnection queue are larger than five megawatts so none of them will be able to leapfrog over the local planning process.

The largest approved solar project in the area is actually two projects: at Shepard Farm in Westerlo, the solar farm is made up of two 45-acre plots that had once been part of the same 190-acre property — one with a 6.9-megawatt array and the other with a 2.9-megawatt array.

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