Green Innovations

Developing renewable and clean technology companies in New York

Friday, May 3, 2013

Learn About Renewable Energy from the

Renewable Energy

Aerial view of the St Lawrence Power Project
St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project
- hydroelectric generating facility on the
St. Lawrence River in NYS
(Photo courtesy of New York Power Authority)

Renewable resources -- wind, water power, solar, geothermal and biomass - already provide nearly 11 percent of the energy that New Yorkers use for transportation, space heating, industrial processes and electric power, according to NYSERDA and the federal Department of Energy (offsite links at right). Even more important for the state's energy future, renewables have the potential to meet as much as 40 percent of energy needs by 2030.

Substituting renewable energy for fossil fuels can mean crucial benefits for New Yorkers:
  • Significantly lower pollution: With life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions only a fraction of those from fossil fuels, renewable energy is essential to stabilize atmospheric GHG levels worldwide. Locally, reducing air pollution from fossil fuel combustion will improve public health.
  • Accessible, affordable energy: Renewable energy can help to reduce net retail electricity prices and fuel price volatility, and can bring downward pressure on wholesale market electricity prices by replacing power from more expensive generation units.
  • Energy "insurance": Renewable technologies can help balance the electric grid (think abundant solar electricity on hot, sunny days). On-site renewable power can meet certain energy needs cheaply and simply (as when small solar panels are used to operate roadside electric signs). Distributed renewable power generation and "microgrids" (clusters of buildings that share a local electric power generation or energy storage device capable of disconnecting from the utility grid) can provide resiliency during natural disasters.
  • Economic prosperity: Because almost all the renewable energy used in New York is generated in-state while most fossil fuel energy is imported, local economies keep more of the dollars spent for renewable energy. Stable, well-paid jobs in grid-scale renewables can help sustain local economies. Growing markets for renewable technologies play to New York's technical, industrial, commercial and financial strengths.
Deploying renewable energy presents technological and institutional challenges. The energy output of some renewable sources varies with season or weather conditions, requiring operational changes to increase the electric power grid's ability to handle variable loads. Investment in a "smart" electric grid is needed to enable utilities to manage power demand, and to allow consumers to function as energy generators and storage facilities.

Renewable energy also brings significant economic opportunities significant opportunities. In particular, the project of integrating renewable energy resources into existing energy supplies and end use sectors is expected tocould lead to important new products and systems. Information from a smart grid would help consumers save money by intelligently controlling their own power use. Paired with a smart grid, renewables have virtually untapped potential to deliver clean energy that meets the needs of growing populations and economies.

Today's Renewable Energy Picture in New York

NYC skyline in background and flat roof building with solar panels on top in foreground
Solar panels generate electricity on a roof in the
New York City metro area.

Comprehensive descriptions of New York's renewable energy use are found in the New York State Energy Plan Renewable Energy Assessment and in reports from NYSERDA and the US DOE Energy Information Administration. Energy agencies currently track use of solar, wind, plant and forest products, wastes, tidal, hydro and geothermal, which have the greatest short-term potential to provide significant amounts of renewable energy.

Renewable Energy Use

In New York, electric power generation is the largest beneficiary from renewable energy - the 2009 State Energy Plan records that approximately 60 percent of New York's 2007 renewable resource use was in the electric generation sector, and the remaining 40 percent came from ethanol (18 percent) and biomass (22 percent, largely wood used by the residential sector).

The Energy Plan reports that approximately 16.8 percent of the state's total electricity generation came from renewable sources in 2007. Since that time, New York has seen significant gains in wind generation and modest growing adoption of solar photovoltaic electricity and of solar thermal and geothermal technologies for space heat and hot water in homes and other buildings.

State Policies Promote Renewables

Several important state policies are specifically aimed at promoting adoption of renewable technologies and development of renewable energy sources:
Renewable Portfolio Standard
The state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has a goal of at least 30 percent of renewable electricity by 2015 (sometimes referred to as '30 x 15'). Renewable electricity generators compete for state production incentives and, in exchange, guarantee delivery of renewable electricity to ratepayers. RPS provisions and performance are described in the State Energy Plan Renewable Energy Assessment.
Renewable Energy Incentives
State government offers grants and loans to help New Yorkers adopt renewable energy technologies or develop renewable energy businesses. The NYS Energy Research and Development Authority offers renewable energy incentives and opportunities for individuals, businesses and institutions. (See NYSERDA link at right.)
NY Sun
The NY Sun Act provides administrative flexibility to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and other New York State energy agencies and authorities to design the most cost-effective programs and to respond to changing market conditions.
Net Metering
The state's recently-adopted net metering law makes it easier for residences and businesses to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. Under net metering, homes, businesses, farms and institutions can feed excess electricity generated by renewable technologies such as photovoltaics, wind, biomass, fuel cells, anaerobic digestion, small hydroelectric and microturbines back into the electric power grid and receive credit from their power suppliers.
Executive Order 111
Wind Turbine installation, Union College, Schcnectady
Three of the turbines being
installed here will provide 40
percent of the power used
regularly at Union College's
athletic complex in Schenectady.
EO 111 sets forth an energy purchasing goal to meet 20 percent of the annual electricity requirement of buildings occupied by state agencies through renewable technologies.

New York's Renewable Energy Industry

New York's clean energy leadership is underscored by its growing renewable energy industry. When the 2009 State Energy Plan was compiled, more than 50 companies in the state manufactured renewable energy technologies or related products; more than 90 New York companies were certified to install solar-photovoltaic systems, and several corn-based and advanced cellulosic ethanol plants and numerous ethanol and biodiesel distributors and retailers were located in the state.

Since the assessment was published, battery storage technology research has been initiated in New York and the General Electric Company has dedicated its Renewable Energy Global Headquarters here. The 2013 State Energy Plan will include an updated description of renewable energy research and manufacturing in New York.

For a report examining the implications of renewable energy for rural communities and economies, see Transitioning to Renewable Energy: Development Opportunities and Concerns for Rural America, available from Cornell Cooperative Extension Community and Regional Development Institute (CARDI), link at right.

Energy: Energy planning encompasses not only the electric power sector of the economy, but also the transportation and buildings/industrial (called "residential/commercial/industrial) sectors.Energy planners typically take into account the total consumption of fuels needed to provide energy to consumers -- both energy actually used by consumers and energy used in producing and distributing consumer energy products.