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Leon Kaye headshot

New York Reaps 800 Percent Solar Growth in Five Years

By Leon Kaye

When we think of solar, sun-kissed states such as California, Hawaii and sometimes Florida come to mind. Even Georgia is seeing growth in solar, symbolized by its former governor and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who recently leased part of his peanut farm to a solar power company. But Northeastern states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, also have ambitious solar programs.

And the solar industry is booming spectacularly in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week.

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo claimed New York’s support for solar power initiatives resulted in an 800 percent increase in industry growth from 2011, the year he took office, to 2016.

The state’s various renewable energy programs resulted in investments totaling $1.5 billion – with several regions experiencing a 10-fold increase due to the NY-Sun Initiative, Cuomo said. That program offers companies and local governments financial incentives, training and resources to help them adopt solar power.

Cuomo's announcement comes as some media reports suggest his emphasis on solar power development amounted to a financial drain on the state while offering few results.

Two years ago, New York had America's fourth-largest solar industry in terms of total jobs, according to a 2015 statement from the Solar Foundation. But this month the right-wing firebrand New York Post reported numbers from the Solar Foundation amounting to a 1 percent decrease in New York solar jobs last year. The decline in jobs pushed New York’s solar industry down to sixth amongst U.S. states, the Buffalo News reported earlier this month – despite solar accounting for 1 in 50 newly-created American jobs last year.

As outlined in the Solar Foundation’s annual solar jobs census report, growth in jobs at utility-scale solar installations in New York state were exceeded by a decrease in employment within the residential solar sector. But New York state officials expect solar energy jobs to rebound with an 11 percent increase during 2017, reported David Robinson of the Buffalo News.

Delays at the former SolarCity solar panel plant in Buffalo, now dubbed as Tesla Motor’s 'Gigafactory 2,' added another hiccup to New York’s solar industry. That plant is expected to launch operations this summer.

When tallying the numbers compiled by the governor’s office, the Mohawk Valley, which is wedged between Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, witnessed the largest growth in New York. It saw an almost 16-fold increase in solar capacity to just under 27 megawatts of solar capacity.

Long Island, however, has the lion’s share of all the state’s solar installations, with over 24,000 solar projects installed from New York City’s eastern boroughs to its easternmost tip at Montauk.

In total, the state now has a total capacity of 744 MW of solar power, enough to electrify approximately 121,000 average-sized homes, according to the governor's office.

Image credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye