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Renewable Energy

Cutting Pollution, Creating Opportunity

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)

New York has abundant energy in its wind, flowing water, sunshine, earth heat and sustainable biomass.

Rapidly-evolving technology is making it feasible to capture this energy as renewable "fuel" for our energy-intensive economy.

Why Substitute Renewable Energy for Fossil Fuels

  • Less pollution - Globally, renewable energy's low emissions are essential to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gases. Locally, public health will be better with less fossil fuel combustion polluting the air.
  • Reliable, affordable energy - Renewable generation from free "fuel" (think solar electricity on hot, sunny days) can help balance the electric grid and reduce the need for expensive peak power, which can mean lower electric bills.
  • Energy "insurance" - Renewable energy sources lend themselves to distributed generation and microgrids that can help keep the lights on and the house warm during natural disasters and other grid interruptions.
  • Economic vitality - Locally-generated renewables put the dollars we spend for energy to work supporting stable, well-paid jobs, right here. Renewable energy products, systems and services already are playing into New York's traditional strength in technology, industry, commerce and finance.

A New Vision for New York's Energy

The 2015 New York State Energy Plan says that renewable sources, which today provide about 11 percent of the energy we use, have the potential to meet as much as 40 percent of our energy needs by 2030.

Deploying renewable energy on this scale requires upgraded distribution systems and close coordination between the public and private sectors. Governor Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative (link at right) is a strategy to integrate technical, management and marketing approaches to keep energy flowing as sources, supplies, demand and capabilities evolve.

Adding Distributed Electric Generation

Solar and wind "farms" and large hydroelectric power stations supply clean renewable power on a commercial scale to New York's electric grid. But large scale is not required for renewable technologies to generate safe, clean power - small solar arrays in neighborhoods, business districts and campuses throughout New York are producing electricity at a cost close to that of fossil fuels, while small wind, geothermal and micro hydro are appearing in suitable locations across the state.

Small scale renewable technology is compatible with existing residential, business or public areas, serving local loads while remaining connected to the wider grid system. Such distributed generation reduces electric line losses and makes the entire power system more efficient.

Distributed renewable generation is an excellent way to power microgrids (clusters of consumers that share a local electricity generator or energy storage device); these local grids can disconnect if the wider grid suffers an interruption. The ability of microgrids to operate off-grid if needed improves both grid resilience and local ability to deal with an emergency.

An automated smart grid with computer-based remote controls and real-time system status information would enable utilities to smooth fluctuations in electricity demand and to manage power variability as renewable generation comes on line. Utilities and regulators are currently exploring approaches to make this kind of service available to New Yorkers.

Consumers will save money as distributed generation, microgrids and smart grids help head off electricity price increases driven by inefficiency, and also allow customers to generate and store power and to manage their own electricity use.

Today's Renewable Energy Picture in New York

NYC skyline in background and flat roof building with solar panels on top in foreground
A small solar array generates electricity on a roof in
the New York City metro area..

Wind, hydropower, solar, geothermal and sustainable biomass already provide at least 11 percent of all the energy that New Yorkers used for transportation, space heating, industrial processes and electric power (2011 figure from NYSERDA and the federal Department of Energy, links at right).

Solar, wind, biomass and hydro are the renewable sources with the greatest short-term potential to provide significant amounts of energy for New York.

Details of New York's production of renewable energy are found in the 2014 Draft New York State Energy Plan and in reports from NYSERDA and the Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy (links at right).

Renewable Energy Production and Use

In New York, most renewable energy is made available for use as electric power.

In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, renewable energy provided approximately 19 percent of New York's total electricity requirement. The 2014 Draft State Energy Plan reports that in 2011 most of New York's renewable electricity (approximately 80 percent) was generated by hydroelectric stations, with 9 percent from wind and the remainder from biomass, biogas and solar.

New York State Renewable Energy Programs

Through programs that explain and encourage renewable energy and provide assistance to businesses and individuals wishing purchase renewable technologies, New York State is promoting this new energy market sector.

Renewable Energy Incentives
Wind turbine installation Union College Schenectady
Three wind turbines like
the one being installed here
provide power for Union
College's athletic complex
in Schenectady

State government offers grants and loans to help New Yorkers adopt renewable energy technologies and develop renewable energy businesses. The NYS Energy Research and Development Authority administers renewable energy incentives and opportunities for individuals, businesses and institutions. (See NYSERDA link at right.)

The state's net metering laws make it easier for residences and businesses to use solar photovoltaic (PV) and other distributed generation technology. Under net metering, homes, businesses, farms and institutions can feed excess electricity generated by renewable technologies back into the electric power grid and receive credit from their power suppliers.

The Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard set a statewide target for renewable energy use and funded incentives for customers to adopt renewable energy. NY State is in the process of developing new goals and programs to ensure continued growth in renewable energy. (See the Energy/Climate Programs page for more information.)

NY Sun

Administrative flexibility provided by the NY Sun Act enables New York State energy agencies and authorities to design the most cost-effective programs and respond to changing market conditions.

Green Purchasing

To help support New York's renewable energy market, the state has a goal for purchasing renewable electricity to power its buildings, and promotes state and municipal purchase of environmentally friendly commodities, services and technologies.

More about Renewable Energy:

  • Solar Energy in New York - Information about incentives for solar energy installations and programs for educating children about solar energy
  • Hydropower in New York - Information about hydropower and energy generated by tidal action
  • Biofuels - Information about biofuels, including the benefits of using biofuels as well as the concerns associated with them
  • Geothermal Energy - Information about using the temperature of the earth for heating and cooling
  • Wind Power - Information about wind energy's development as an important component of New York's clean renewable energy initiative and the state's ability to achieve the RPS described above