Distributed Energy Resources

NYPA program helps local governments to host community solar project

New York recently accelerated its efforts to help local governments and agencies in the state participate in community solar projects.

Under the new program, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will work with municipal and state government entities to assist in the development of community solar projects on their buildings and land to mitigate the challenges they face in adopting distributed renewable energy.

Long development timelines and uncertain revenue streams can pose problems for municipalities trying to secure approvals and find funding for community solar projects. The new program provides NYPA staff to assist in the project development process, from scoping, design, and purchasing to execution, project management and close-out.

As project hosts, local governments would bear no upfront capital cost for the solar projects, which would be able to generate revenues in the form of lease payments and subscriber fees.

NYPA said the new program would help it meet its 2025 community solar target of having 75 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity online by 2025, including 15 MW of paired battery storage. NYPA estimates those projects could stimulate more than $135 million in direct, private investments toward their development, construction, and operation, and create more than 1,250 jobs. NYPA estimates the program could support at least 40 community solar projects.

“By setting a stretch target to address the need for more solar and storage systematically, NYPA will help governments overcome potential hurdles in onboarding solar projects and more effectively serve as 'anchor subscribers' which can then help engage the surrounding community,” Gil Quiniones, president and CEO of NYPA, said in a statement.

A June 2020 New York Public Service Commission order allows Community Distributed Generation (CDG) projects to sign up large commercial customers to “anchor” a community solar project.

Prior to the order, the incentives available for community solar projects often put developers in the position of trying to support a project’s financing wholly on the basis of residential customer subscriptions.

The commission’s order allows large electric customers to serve as anchor subscribers for distributed solar projects, helping to reduce costs by improving economies of scale and providing more certain income streams, NYPA said.

NYPA has several community solar projects in its development pipeline, including projects in Quarryville in Ulster County and at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, as well as a community solar program with the City of White Plains.

The new program is part of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act agenda that calls for installing 6,000 MW of solar power by 2025 and 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030.