New York State looks to the sun after a year of severe weather


Launched last year, NY-Sun is intended to quadruple the amount of customer-sited solar in New York by 2015. This initiative is aimed at providing additional certainty to solar developers, attracting significant private investment in solar photovoltaic systems, developing a robust solar power industry in New York, improving the reliability of the electric grid, and reducing air pollution.

Now, Cuomo has put forward a plan to expand the NY-Sun solar job initiative at a rate of $150 million annually for 10 years, in order to increase solar panel installations by homeowners and businesses. The governor also has proposed programs that would spur the use of grid-tied, renewable, distributed energy –among them:

  • NY Green Bank: Establishment of a $1 billion Green Bank will match public and private funding to spur the clean economy;
  • Charge NY Program: Installation of a statewide network of charging stations, along with provision of charging infrastructure tax credits; and
  • Cabinet-Level Energy Czar: To coordinate the state's clean-tech agenda and oversee the state government's energy portfolio, Governor Cuomo named Richard Kauffman, a senior advisor to the nation’s Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, to serve as a member of his Cabinet as the "Energy Czar." Prior to joining the US Department of Energy, Kauffman was CEO of New York City-based Good Energies, Inc. a leading investor in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

A strong comeback after the storm

Following an epic storm that leveled much of the New York region’s electrical infrastructure in late October, Cuomo commented this week, "New York is on its way – coming back stronger than ever before, rising to meet some of the biggest challenges in our history, remaining as a progressive beacon of light to the rest of the nation, and standing out as a model of effective government."

To reduce dependence on centralized power plants and avoid future power outages, he proposed increasing the use of alternative local power (distributed generation of electricity) using renewable sources, including solar plants, as well as natural gas, and energy storage.

Cuomo also announced that the state will use various strategies to assist home and business owners whose properties were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The Recreate NY-Smart Home program will provide critical financial assistance to property owners to mitigate future threats to their properties. The Governor also said he intended to update the State Building Code to promote smarter, resilient building performance, as well as increased survivability.

A haven for high technology

As many of the country’s most significant high-tech economic clusters owe their success to technology transfer, the governor has outlined steps to accelerate the commercialization of good ideas and the creation of new businesses to take them to market–among them:

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  • Innovation Hot Spots: Ten higher education/private sector high-tech incubators will be selected as “Hot Spots” through a competitive process. Inventors and entrepreneurs will be offered support to grow their operations in a tax-free zone, where start-ups will not be subject to business, real property, and sales taxes.
  • Innovation NY Network: To break down barriers to commercialization of academic ideas, Cuomo intends to create an Innovation NY Network. The network will be mandated to build collaboration among academics, venture capitalists, business leaders, patent lawyers and other professionals, in order to facilitate and grow the commercialization process.
  • Innovation Venture Capital Fund: A $50 million Innovation Venture Capital Fund will provide incentives for successful start-ups to stay in the state and grow. Support from the Innovation Venture Capital Fund will help these entrepreneurs to make the transition from research to prototyping— and, ultimately, to the creation of marketable products.

Industry support

In reaction to the speech, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, was quick to laud the Governor’s strategies.

"Today’s announcement shows New York State is making tremendous strides in its commitment to expanding solar deployment and growing its clean energy economy," said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president for State Affairs at SEIA.

"We applaud Governor Cuomo for advancing policies that promote clean energy innovation, create jobs, protect the environment, and help ensure our nation’s energy security and independence," Hitt stated.

She added, "The NY-Sun Initiative has put New York State at the forefront of new solar deployment, creating clean economy jobs while containing energy costs for consumers. This expansion of the NY-Sun Initiative, the creation of a $1 billion green bank, as well as the appointment of former Department of Energy official Richard Kauffman as New York State’s chairman for energy policy and finance, will ensure that solar becomes an increasingly significant component in New York’s energy portfolio; while supporting solar’s affordability for more New York State families and businesses."

New York State currently is ranked 12th among U.S. states in terms of installed solar capacity, according to SEIA’S U.S. Solar Market Insight report. There are approximately 3,300 solar professionals working at 338 companies in New York.

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