New York State lawmakers passed legislation as part of the fiscal year 2020-2021 state budget designed to speed up the siting and construction of clean energy projects.
The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act seeks to improve and streamline the process for environmentally responsible and cost-effective siting of large-scale renewable energy projects across the state.
The state’s existing energy generation siting process was designed for fossil-fuel electric generating plants. The new siting process will establish uniform environmental standards and conditions that will support expedited project development.
“As the country’s leader in addressing climate change, Governor Cuomo has put New York at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change, and this new law will help achieve a quick transition to using clean, renewable energy resources in our state,” Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said. “The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act demonstrates how forward-thinking policy can be used to boost the state economy and create jobs while bringing abundant, clean, renewable energy to all New Yorkers.”
Specifically, the legislation establishes the Office of Renewable Energy Siting within the Department of State. The office will consolidate the environmental review of major renewable energy facilities and provide a single forum to ensure that siting decisions are predictable, responsible, and delivered promptly.
All renewable energy projects larger than 25 megawatts will be required to seek an approved permit through the Siting Office for new construction or expansion.
The act will also establish regulations and uniform standards that encompass the environmental impacts common to large, renewable energy projects, and identify mitigation measures to address those impacts. Also, sites must achieve a net conservation benefit to any impacted endangered and threatened species. Further, it authorizes the DEC to use funds from projects permitted through the new siting office to implement an endangered and threatened species mitigation bank fund.
The act will be implemented by the New York State Department of State, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Department of Public Service, Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Power Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.
“While Governor Cuomo and the State work tirelessly to defeat COVID-19, we must continue to move forward and confront our climate crisis in order to protect New Yorkers from the dangerous consequences of a changing climate,” NYSERDA President and CEO Alicia Barton said. “This new law will support a rapid transition to clean renewable energy sources and ensure that our enormous pipeline of large-scale renewable energy projects can be responsibly permitted, bolster the state’s economy, and deliver health, environmental, and economic benefits to all New Yorkers.”
The Solar Energy Industries Association has embraced the bill.
“These are unprecedented times and we appreciate that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the New York legislature and governor are prioritizing the long-term stability and growth of the solar market,” David Gahl, senior director of state affairs, northeast for SEIA, said. “Like other industries, the solar industry is not immune to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week New York leaders made the difficult decision to halt construction projects, thereby shutting down solar installations.