NYLCVEF Releases Background Paper on Breaking Down the Barriers to Siting Renewable Energy in New York

New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
(212) 361-6350, Ext. 206

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2019
Contact: Shachar Sharon, ssharon@nylcv.org

NYLCVEF Releases Background Paper on Breaking Down the Barriers to Siting Renewable Energy in New York

New York, N.Y. – This week, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) released a paper on the barriers to siting renewable energy in New York and possible approaches to overcoming these obstacles.

The recommendations included: improving the state’s process for siting large-scale energy generating facilities, known as Article 10; ensuring that community leaders proactively evaluate and incorporate large-scale renewable development into their land-use decisions; engaging communities early in the siting process; educating the public on the benefits of renewable energy; and encouraging developers to explore investment opportunities that benefit municipalities.

NYLCVEF’s paper builds on work done in October 2017 by the Alliance for Clean Energy New York and The Nature Conservancy, Accelerating Large-Scale Wind and Solar Energy in New York.

NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe said, “The State’s clean energy goals of achieving 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040 are ambitious. To meet these goals, we must make sure that significantly more renewable projects are sited – quickly. This paper shows that we must reform the Article 10 regulatory process while also addressing the legitimate concerns about renewable projects that communities have. It also shows that stakeholders have the opportunity to engage with community members and sway public opinion in favor of renewable projects. We will continue to work with local groups and governments to implement these recommendations and seek out more suggestions. We look forward to seeing more and more renewable energy projects sited throughout the state.”

The paper showed that a number of barriers exist that make it difficult to site wind and solar projects in New York State. For large-scale installations (over 25 MW), Article 10 of New York State’s Public Service Law requires developers to engage in a lengthy and contentious permitting process. Only one project has been certified under this law and more than two dozen have been in the queue for years. In addition, localities have local laws and ordinances that impede the development of wind and solar projects. For example, moratoria on the development of renewables, which are intended to give localities more time to develop regulations, can delay development and dissuade potential investments in renewables.

Transmission of renewable energy provides an additional barrier. Currently, New York does not have enough existing transmission capacity to support its goal of a 100% carbon-neutral energy grid by 2040. Developing new transmission lines and expanding existing infrastructure is expensive and complex, and not progressing fast enough to meet the State’s goal. In addition, public opposition to large-scale renewable projects has slowed their expansion statewide. Communities have voiced concerns with the environmental and economic impacts of proposed installations.

The report describes these barriers in detail and proposes five preliminary policy recommendations for addressing siting challenges. First, the cumbersome Article 10 process should be reformed to be more efficient for large-scale renewable projects. Doing so should include clarifying provisions and procedures, including the definition of what constitutes an “unreasonably burdensome” local law. Local governments should use the authority they have under the Article to support more projects.

Second, localities should incorporate large-scale renewable development into their long-term land-use planning. For example, previously disturbed areas such as brownfields and landfills may serve as optimal locations for solar installations, but local policies are needed to encourage development in these areas.

Third, developers and state agencies should engage communities early in the siting process, so that stakeholders can collaborate on identifying sites for potential projects and local leaders can address the nuanced concerns residents may have.

Fourth, governments, environmental and community groups, and other stakeholders should identify opportunities to educate the public and raise awareness about the benefits of renewable energy and increase support. This could help quell some public opposition of potential projects. The use of renewable energy is a major component of our state’s goal of decreasing emissions, reducing air pollution, and thereby improving air quality and lowering asthma rates. These environmental and public health benefits are especially important because dirtier electricity generation facilities are often located in environmental justice communities, where they contribute to higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The potential for economic benefits, including job creation, should also be shared with residents.

Finally, developers and host community leaders are encouraged to explore options to ensure that municipalities experience tangible benefits from renewable installations. Investing into communities will provide co-benefits for developers, investors, and localities, and ultimately accelerate the adoption of renewable energy in a way that can be beneficial for all.

NYLCVEF is holding a series of roundtable discussions across the state to discuss opportunities for getting more renewable energy projects sited. They will convene a range of stakeholders, including local governments, community groups, developers, environmental organizations, and state agencies in productive conversations. Their goal is to update the recommendations to include what they learn from the local roundtables, incorporate them into their advocacy, and help New York achieve its ambitious renewable energy goals.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund engages and educates New Yorkers on environmental issues and the environmental decision-making processes at the local, regional, state and federal government levels. NYLCVEF fosters open, nonpartisan discussion on environmental policy and empowers New Yorkers to be effective advocates on behalf of the environment. Visit www.nylcvef.org for more information.