New York Commits $1B to Cleantech, Specifically Solar Power and Distributed Energy

New York is poised to see a leap in cleantech developments, specifically on the solar power front, following the recent announcement by Governor Cuomo that he had committed $1 billion to the NY-Sun initiative, which is designed to provide long-term funding for existing solar businesses, as well as attract new investment to the sector.

NY-Sun is part of a larger effort to protect the environment and lower energy costs for all New Yorkers by improving the electric grid’s efficiency and reliability, according to the governor’s statement.

More than 400 solar companies operate in New York State.

“This $1 billion investment underscores New York’s commitment to growing the clean energy economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “By providing long-term funding certainty, the State is attracting private sector investment, creating new economic opportunities and supporting sustainable development.” The goals, he said, are “to provide innovative solutions, create a more resilient and flexible power grid, lower the state’s carbon footprint and promote a cleaner and healthier environment for all New Yorkers.”

The initiative coupled with the new funding commitment “moves New York to a market-based, decentralized approach in advancing energy policy,” said Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York.

New York’s Push for Distributed Energy

In addition, the NY State Public Service Commission (PSC) noted it had approved an order to create a long-term plan to transform NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority)’s incentive-based solar programs to meet the needs of a more distributed, consumer-focused energy system.

New York State Solar Energy Industries Association President Shaun Chapman noted that NYSEIA and its more than 100 member companies “stand ready to provide private capital, good jobs, and clean energy to all New Yorkers.”

To drive large-scale market penetration, the PSC order provides long-term, stable funding over a 10-year period to support photovoltaic (PV) projects throughout the state.

The “Megawatt Block incentive structure” allocates MWs on a regional basis and will reportedly allow the market to grow at its own pace, which in turn should eventually create a self-sustaining industry.

The new funding commitment also provides $3.5 million for a consumer education effort on the benefits of PV systems.

NYSERDA also will more than double the proposed allocation for the Long Island, New York region from $28 million to $60 million, increase the maximum size of the PV system eligible for incentives up to 200 kW, and will partner with PSEG Long Island to locally implement the statewide NY-Sun program.

Companies positioned to capitalize on this new policy include SolarCity, which in January 2013 was able to offer its services to Long Island Customers though the Long Island Power Authority, According to the Motley Fool, SolarCity has since more than tripled its Long Island staff and opened an 18,000 square foot facility in Hauppauge, which “quadruples SolarCity’s Long Island footprint.” Substantial market opportunity awaits SolarCity, which doesn’t operate in nearly 50 counties in the rest of the state.

The company’s chief competitor, SunPower, may also look to leverage the new policy. The company recently signed a deal with Google to help provide financing to $250 million worth of residential solar lease projects. In January, the company joined with Bank of America to provide $220 million in financing to the solar leasing market.

MTA Installs Flow Battery Storage for Backup Power

In other New York clean tech news, according to a recent Bloomberg report, New York’s interest in the energy storage market was underscored when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reported that it is sponsoring a two-year demonstration of a vanadium battery module designed to help manage its energy use.

American Vanadium Corp., owner of the only known U.S. deposit of the metal, agreed to install an energy-storage system designed to reduce power costs for the agency, which operates New York’s subways and buses, Bloomberg reported.

The $1.2 million project will feature three vanadium-flow batteries at the MTA’s building in downtown Manhattan, the Vancouver-based company said today in a statement.

The MTA plans to charge the batteries at night when power is cheap and discharge them when energy is more expensive, Bill Radvak, American Vanadium’s chief executive officer, told Bloomberg. “This is a very high profile site that will stimulate the market,” he said.

American Vanadium is paying about $700,000 and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will pay an additional $500,000.

Vanadium batteries, which are capable of storing 130 kilowatt-hours each, are produced by DMG Mori Seiki AG (GIL)’s Gildemeister unit, which has installed 50 of the systems under the brand name CellCube, Radvak said.

The CellCube batteries use vanadium dissolved in sulfuric acid. Unlike standard lead-acid batteries or the lithium-ion units used by Tesla, they can be recharged and discharged indefinitely and may last as long as 20 years, Radvak said.

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