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New York’s plan to jump-start renewables

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On March 13, 2020, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the details supporting the rapid development of 21 utility-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects across the state.  The development and construction of the 1,278 MW of new capacity are expected to spur over $2.5 billion in direct and private investments across the state.  The New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and other State and local agencies, are tasked with ensuring that the projects are sited and developed responsibly. 

The announced awards support Governor Cuomo’s ambitious plan to obtain 70% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy resources by as soon as 2030, and reach 100% zero-carbon power by 2040.  The plan was signed into law as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) signed into law in July of 2019.  The new projects are estimated to generate around 2.5 million megawatt-hours (MWh) annually once fully commissioned. 

The newly announced awards are the third in a series of annual NYSERDA land-based renewable procurements.  Over the past three years, NYSERDA has awarded 67 projects, considered the most significant single state commitment to renewables in the nation.  Along with the three land-based renewables award rounds, the Governor announced earlier this year a landmark commitment to offshore wind development that, when built and generating, could meet up to 12% of the state’s power demands by 2030. 

Several of the projects will be breaking ground this year and are expected to be up and running by 2024.  Of the 21 selections, seventeen are large-scale solar, three are upgrades to existing wind farms, and one is a new large-scale onshore wind project.  Two of the solar projects will integrate battery-storage technology. 

The weighted average award price for the selected projects is $18.59/MWh over a 20-year period, the lowest average contract price ever by a NYSERDA large-scale renewables solicitation.

The projects by region include:

Capital Region

  • Bald Mountain Solar: Boralex, 19.99 MW solar, town of Greenwich
  • West River Solar: Boralex, 19.99 MW solar, town of Moreau
  • SunEast Hilltop Solar: SunEast Development,19.99 MW solar, town of Schaghticoke

Central New York

  • Garnet Energy Center: NextEra Energy Resources, 200 MW solar facility, accompanied by 20 MW of energy storage, town of Conquest

Finger Lakes

  • Highview Solar Project: SunEast Development, 20 MW solar, town of Castile

Mohawk Valley

  • SunEast Flat Hill Solar: SunEast Development,19.99 MW solar, town of Manheim
  • SunEast Grassy Knoll Solar: SunEast Development,19.99 MW solar, town of Manheim
  • SunEast Limestone Solar: SunEast Development, 19.99 MW solar, town of Perth
  • SunEast Tabletop Solar: SunEast Development,80 MW solar, town of Palatine

North Country

  • ELP Ticonderoga Solar: East Light Partners, 19.99 MW solar, town of Ticonderoga
  • North Side Energy Center: NextEra Energy Resources, 180 MW solar facility in the towns of Brasher, Massena, and Norfolk
  • Sandy Creek Solar: Boralex,19.99 MW solar facility in the towns of Adams and Ellisburg
  • Greens Corners Solar: Boralex, 120 MW solar facility in the towns of Hounsfield and Watertown
  • SunEast Fairway Solar: SunEast Development will build a 19.99 MW solar facility in the town of Oswegatchie

Southern Tier

  • Cohocton Wind Project: TerraForm Power will repower an existing wind farm, leading to an increase in new renewable capacity of 35.8 MW in the town Cohocton
  • Prattsburgh Wind Farm: Terra-Gen, 145 MW wind farm in the towns of Avoca, Cohocton, Prattsburgh, and Wheeler
  • SunEast Valley Solar: SunEast Development, 19.99 MW solar facility in the town of Owego

Western New York

  • Martin Rd Solar: Empire Renewables, LLC,19.99 MW solar facility in the towns of Machias and Yorkshire
  • South Ripley Solar and Storage: ConnectGen, 270 MW solar facility, accompanied by 20 MW of energy storage, in the town of Ripley
  • Steel Winds Wind Farm: TerraForm Power will repower an existing wind farm, leading to an increase in new renewable capacity of 4.8 MW in the city of Lackawanna
  • Steel Winds Wind Farm 2: TerraForm Power will repower an existing wind farm, leading to an increase in new renewable capacity of 2.6 MW in the city of Lackawanna and the town of Hamburg

The projects will not be granted NYSERDA payments until they have secured all required permits, local approvals, and are deemed operational.  The next solicitation for large-scale renewable energy under the New York Clean Energy Standard (CES) is scheduled for late April.

Difficult road ahead

Reaching the 70% renewable electricity goal by 2030 will be a monumental task.  In 2019, electricity production from zero-carbon resources, including nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar, accounted for 62.8% (84.7 million MWh) of all power generation across the state.  Of that total, nuclear accounted for 44.9 million MWh, hydro for 29.5 million MWh, wind and solar for roughly 7.5 million MWh, with the rest (2.8 million MWh) derived from various renewable energy resources including wood byproducts, landfill gas, and municipal waste.   

New York electricity production by fuel, MWh

 

To achieve the 2030 goal, the state will need to deal with the retirement of two large nuclear reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center (2,400 MW) in Buchanan, NY, which represent almost one-fifth (16.7 million MWh) of all zero-carbon electricity production in the state.  The plant closures are scheduled to happen over the next two years.   

Also adding to the difficulty of achieving the state’s low carbon goals, any day now the largest power plant currently testing in New York will start operation.  Advanced Power Corporation’s 1,100 MW combined-cycle natural gas plant, the Cricket Valley Energy Center, located in Dover, New York, was constructed on a once-abandoned industrial site.  The facility, constructed by Bechtel Corporation, has incorporated an advanced emission technology system with a low impact design.

Supporting the clean power goals, coal-fueled electricity has disappeared in the state with the recent closing of the last coal-fueled power plant.  The AES Somerset (aka Kintigh Generating Station) generated over 938,000 MWh over the past two years.  The plant shutdown marked the end of an era for coal power in the state, but it won’t make much of an impact on overall electricity production since coal power was already phasing out and contributing minimally to the state’s fuel mix.  In 2019, coal accounted for only three-tenths of one percent of the state’s total electric output.  Until the recent shutdowns, coal represented a significant dispatchable resource that could be called on at times of high electricity demand like during summer heatwaves and winter cold fronts, times when variable resources like wind and sunshine might be in short supply. 

To stay on track to meet the state’s ambitious renewable energy goals, wind and solar will need to replace the electricity generation gap created by the closing of the Indian Point Generating Station, and then ultimately replace all operating natural gas-fired generation by 2040, when the state’s 100% renewable energy goal takes effect.  The recently announced project awards, combined with previous and future announcements, is a step in that direction. 

Kent Knutson's picture

Thank Kent for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 30, 2020 9:37 pm GMT

To achieve the 2030 goal, the state will need to deal with the retirement of two large nuclear reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center (2,400 MW) in Buchanan, NY, which represent almost one-fifth (16.7 million MWh) of all zero-carbon electricity production in the state.  The plant closures are scheduled to happen over the next two years.   

It's a bit discouraging that renewables and nuclear are pitted against each other as opposed to viewed upon as teammates in the fight for carbon-neutral grids. The focus should be on the coal and gas in the state, not replacing one carbon free source with another. 

Kent Knutson's picture
Kent Knutson on Mar 31, 2020 3:57 pm GMT

Indian Point has been on the closure list for a long time now . . . it is a big power generator but has some issues.  We'll see if there is a change of heart as we move along through the year.  I would like to offer that 'natural gas' is critical given that it is a dispatchable power resource.  It is the reason that customer rates have been so attractive during the phase out of coal.  The grid needs dispatchable resources now more than ever.  The concept of maintaining a balanced portfolio of energy resources still rules.  It's important for people to realize that.  It is good that there is more wind and solar . . . but you need other resources including adequate transmission to make everything sing.  Matt, thx for your comment. 

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