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NYPA Approves $30 Million Solar Research Program

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The New York Power Authority authorized a $30 million solar research and development program aimed at lowering the cost of solar energy on March 27.

The $30 million plan is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY Sun Initiative, which was announced during the State of the State address, to expand the use of solar energy and lower the cost to rate payers, which for NYPA are usually municipalities and school districts. The Solar Market Acceleration Program, Solar MAP, is looking to research and demonstrate new technology that can save money on mounting racks, power invertors and monitoring devices that currently hike the price of solar.

In the same release announcing the $30 million Solar MAP program, NYPA announced it would not award bids for a 100-megawatt, 20-year, $20 million annual subsidy program to promote partnerships between municipalities and solar technology providers.

“Effectively, they realized there’s a whole bunch of technical details that need to be made easier before you scale all this up, so what this initiative is oriented toward is researching how you deploy solar,” said Leo Wiegman, Croton mayor and executive vice president of the Croton Energy Group , a sustainability consulting firm.

A large portion of NYPA’s customers is municipalities, school districts, commercial businesses and public entities like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The release said challenges presented by the project included public facilities “reluctant to sign long-term leases with private developers,” and a lack of photovoltaic manufacturing in New York State.

“This really does, probably, indicate how hard it is to come up with programs that are going to be promoting renewable energy sources,” said Stuart Gruskin, an environmental consultant. “If it was easy we would be doing it, but solar requires subsidies, wind requires subsidies, we have this glut of natural gas now, and there’s no easy solution.”

Although NYPA did not award bids for the 100-megawatt project, it has succeeded in installing 100 different photovoltaic projects, totaling three megawatts of photovoltaic power as nearby as NYPA’s main office building in White Plains.

The Town of Cortlandt also received a grant from NYPA to install photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Cortlandt Youth Center, near the Cortlandt train station.

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