Saturday, April 7, 2012

Solar Job Push Urged

Despite the fact that the number of solar electric installations in the state more than doubled last year, renewable energy and labor groups believe New York is quickly falling behind neighboring states in the race to create solar-related jobs.

A new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C., shows that 60 megawatts of solar electric capacity were installed in New York in 2011, up from about 23 megawatts in 2010. A megawatt is enough to power up to a thousand homes.

But a group seeking stronger financial incentives for solar installations in the state, the New York Solar Jobs Coalition, says that states in direct competition with New York for jobs are expanding their solar markets more quickly.

California, the undisputed leader in solar electric production, had 542 megawatts installed in 2011.

Not far behind is New Jersey, which had 313 megawatts installed last year, up from 137 megawatts in 2010.

Pennsylvania had 88 megawatts installed in 2011, up from 47 megawatts the year before.

The New York Solar Jobs Coalition believes New York needs to take steps that New Jersey and Pennsylvania have taken to reach 5,000 megawatts of installed solar power. Those states created solar credits tied to system installations that utilities would be required to purchase. This would establish a market for long-term incentives for developing solar electric projects, the coalition says.

"With an accelerated program in place to support the growth of our solar industry, New York will attract the investment it needs to create new jobs and build a thriving in-state market," said Carol Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

New York currently offers a cash incentive of $1.75 per watt for new systems, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed additional tax credits as well.

But a new report by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority cautions that any new large-scale incentive programs to get New York to 5,000 megawatts could end up costing state utility ratepayers $9 billion.

But it is unclear where Cuomo stands on the solar credit idea. There are bills in both the state Senate and Assembly that support the solar coalition's solar credit proposal, but Cuomo's office did not return a call for comment Wednesday.


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