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Source: Long Island Business News

NY losing ground on solar energy


Posted: March 21, 2011
Originally Published: March 18, 2011

Despite having a record year nationwide, the solar energy industry saw decline in New York in 2010, knocking the Empire State out of the top 10 in terms of photovoltaic installations.

A new study released Thursday by the Solar Energy Industries Association found that the U.S. solar energy industry grew from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010, a 67 percent growth. By contrast, the growth of industry in general in the United States equaled just 3 percent. The SEIA cited such factors as a decline in cost, as much as 8 to 11 percent in the residential sector, as bolstering photovoltaic installations across the nation.

Despite all of the increased business for solar energy, New York was unable to keep pace with other states. According to the SEIA study, the top 10 states for photovoltaic installation in 2010 were: California, New Jersey, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. New York, which ranked seventh in 2009 and sixth in 2008, didn’t make the cut.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of East Hampton-based Renewable Energy Long Island, blamed the state’s lack of a policy pertaining to goals for solar installation as the reason for falling out of the top 10.

“We don’t have the kind of policies in place that help this great renewable energy resource,” Raacke said. “The state has to provide the types of incentives that attract business to New York and attract people to invest in solar energy. If we were to have a good long term policy like they have in New Jersey or California, or other countries like Germany, you’d see a tremendous amount of energy investment.”

Other environmental and clean energy advocates agreed with Raacke’s assessment. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said her organization’s top legislative priority this year is pushing for the passage of the Solar Jobs Act, a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, that would establish a baseline market for solar power in New York requiring 5,000 megawatts of solar power to be generated in the state by 2025.

“New York is in desperate need of an aggressive solar plan,” Esposito said. “For too long, short sighted energy policies have shackled ratepayers to expensive and dirty fossils. As neighboring states are forging ahead with installing clean, safe solar power, New York is falling behind. We need a plan of action to keep solar companies in our state to grow our own green jobs, protect air quality and keep critical energy dollars in our local economy.”

While New York didn’t hold its own in terms of photovoltaic installations, Raacke said Long Island has been ahead of the rest of the state when it comes to using power from the sun.

“We’ve been doing pretty well with our own incentives, like LIPA’s solar program,” Raacke said. “Of course, there’s still lots of room for improvement though.”