In April 2020, New York State adopted, as part of its budget, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act. The new law is intended to streamline and accelerate the siting and development of large-scale renewable energy project, namely utility scale solar facilities.
The newly created Office of Renewable Energy Siting (Siting Office) is to work with municipalities to garner input, run the public comment process and adjudicate substantive concerns. However it is anticipated that the role of municipalities will be much narrower than the current role under the current Article 10 siting process. The Siting Office will be looking at a projects’ adherence to local laws and regulations, such as local solar sting laws. The Siting Office can make a determination that local regulations as applied to the proposed renewable energy facility are “unreasonably burdensome” in view of the targets of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and the environmental benefits of the proposed major renewable energy facility.”
The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act ( “CLCPA”) , among other things:
(a) directs the DEC to establish a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit as a percentage of 1990 emissions as follows: (i) 2030: 60% of 1990 emissions; and (ii) 2050: 15% of 1990 emissions;
(b) directs the Public Service Commission to establish programs to require that a minimum of 70% statewide electric generation be produced by renewable energy systems by 2030, and that by the year 2040 the statewide electrical demand system will generate zero emissions; and
(c) directs the PSC to require the procurement by the state’s jurisdictional load-serving entities of at least 9 gigawatts of offshore wind electricity generation by 2035 and six gigawatts of photovoltaic solar generation by 2025, and to support three gigawatts of statewide energy storage capacity by 2030
There are a significant number of renewable energy facilities developed and proposed in Greene County including utility-scale solar, community solar and battery energy storage systems.
The demand for development of renewable energy facilities in Greene County will continue to increase due to the recent passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The newly enacted legislation requires New York to get 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydropower by 2030 and create a statewide electrical demand system with zero emissions by 2040.
Municipalities in Greene County are seeing a number of proposals for these renewable energy facilities and have grappled with the need to determine how best to plan for and regulate these facilities at the local level that both protect community character and at the same time support and encourage renewable forms of producing power.
There are a growing number of resources available to help local officials learn about how best to plan for renewable energy resources in their communities.
Community Solar facilities have been increasing in number in New York State. Greene County now has several Community Solar facilities. There are community solar projects in Greenville, Freehold, Cairo, Palenville and Tannersville. Another facility is being proposed in Coxsackie. Community solar facilities
provide access to solar energy generation to households and businesses that do not have access to solar because they rent, live in multi-tenant buildings, have roofs that are not conducive to a solar system, or other mitigating factors. The Community Solar project has a large numbers of solar panels (often ground mounted) on several acres of land. Also called ‘solar farms’ they are designed to provide residents the opportunity to either subscribe or purchase solar power by renting or buying the number of panels they need to supply electricity to their homes or business. To be a part of a community solar project you need to have an account with an electric utility.
The Wind Energy Guidebook includes information on wind energy basics and the processes, regulations, and other important considerations involved in siting wind farms. This can help prepare local decision-makers and community members for wind energy development.
NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets Guidelines for Agricultural Mitigation for Wind Power Projects.
This Pace University article on permitting and zoning for wind energy facilities may be helpful at the local level.
As battery storage systems are being advanced in the state, it behooves local town and planning boards to familiarize themselves with the New York State Battery Energy Storage System Guidebook for Local Government