Share this article

print logo

Proposal to boost renewable energy is an investment in the state’s future

This region is in the difficult process of remaking itself from its smokestack past into a green energy hub with thousands of eagerly anticipated jobs in a growing industry.

That makeover is just one reason to support efforts by the state’s energy research authority to dedicate $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to push further development in renewable energy projects and extend the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program that began in 2004.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority also wants to tweak the program to make it more efficient. The end result would be an increase in renewable generating capacity “by reducing project costs and trimming the cost of financing those developments.”

The state Public Service Commission must review the proposals. A nod from the PSC would mean an economic boost to large-scale renewable energy projects, including wind farms, big solar arrays and other types of clean energy technologies.

The program would create several hundred jobs across the state and significantly reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

A green energy future is being built in Buffalo. In an earlier editorial, this page noted projects such as Steel Sun, an exciting effort that will transform about 25 acres of the vast former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna into a high-tech energy producer with the installation of 13,000 solar panels. The project’s developer, BQ Energy, is on target to begin installing solar panels on the site this summer. When complete, the array will generate 4 megawatts of electricity.

The company is also proposing the installation of three solar arrays with a generating capacity of 7.8 megawatts in Olean. St. Bonaventure University has agreed to purchase the project’s power with the expectation that it will reduce the school’s electricity costs by $100,000 a year.

Steel Sun is important, but hardly the most exciting green development on this area’s radar. SolarCity, the largest seller of home solar systems in the nation, has effectively stirred the area’s green imagination.

The company has chosen to build one of the world’s largest solar panel factories at the massive RiverBend complex in South Buffalo. Construction is underway, with full production anticipated in 2017, ultimately employing 1,460 people in good-paying jobs.

The SolarCity project is the centerpiece of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program. The state is laying the groundwork for a new industry, spending $750 million to build the factory and purchase equipment. The governor has made clear his commitment to reviving the economy in Buffalo and Western New York, and this project most convincingly represents his good intentions with an industry looking to the future.

From large-scale projects (Steelwinds in Lackawanna, the wind farm in Wyoming County) to small turbines on farms and homes in rural areas that residents count on to reduce their monthly bills, from rooftop solar panels to giant solar arrays like the ones in Olean, this area is turning its focus in a greener direction.

NYSERTA is promoting the move to renewable energy with its new proposals. One change would reduce the cost of large-scale projects by pushing developers to quickly find buyers for the power to be produced by renewable energy. With a buyer in place, NYSERDA’s share of funding would be reduced, so more projects could be assisted.

Even spread over 10 years, $1.5 billion is a lot of money. But the goal of creating a mature green energy industry that will no longer need those subsidies makes the proposal worth pursuing.