That’s a good question. The announcement from Gov. Cuomo’s office about the latest round of NY-Sun grants – $46 million for 76 large-scale projects totally 52 MW of power – just states they installations will be in 33 counties, which covers more than half the state. It’s a little difficult to tell how many, if any, will be built in New York City based on that.
An even better question might be why so many of the grants are going to companies based outside the state. Just nine of the 28 companies listed are based in New York, although an additional six at least have an office in the state.
Sustainability and the environment were a major focus of Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City address last week. According to Bloomberg, the city has cut its carbon footprint by 16 percent in the last five years, and the goal is to reduce it by an additional 30 percent in the next 10 years.
One of the initiatives announced in the mayor’s speech was a big push for electric vehicles. In addition to a city pilot program for ultra-fast curbside charging stations, Bloomberg wants to add 50 electric cars to the city’s fleet and switch over a third of the taxi fleet to electric by 2020. He also plans to change the city’s building code to make up to 20 percent of new public parking spaces in private developments EV-compatible, which he said would add 10,000 parking spots for electric vehicles in the next seven years.
Last month, Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State Address spoke boldly about renewable energy and other environmental initiatives. One major proposal is the creation of a $1 billion Green Bank for investment in clean energy. Renewable energy projects in New York City tend to have higher price tags than elsewhere in the state, just as a cost of doing business, so any additional help such systems can get will be welcome. However, if the Green Bank will be partially funded by the Renewable Portfolio Standards and System Benefit Charge, it is likely the City will contribute more than it gets back.
Recently, I wrote about the potential benefits of wind and solar during a major blackout like that which followed Hurricane Sandy. Yet there was one alternative energy source already in use in certain sections of New York City that kept buildings and neighborhoods up and running: cogeneration. Though not as sexy as PV or wind – and ultimately still reliant on fossil fuels – cogeneration is another smart option to consider in an overall plan to make energy more reliable.
NYU’s buildings around Washington Square Park kept lights and heat thanks to its 13.4-megawatt cogeneration plant. The system burns natural gas to create electricity, then channels the excess heat to make steam that is used to make more power; it is 90 percent efficient. Unlike most of the city’s solar panels, NYU’s cogeneration plant was able to disconnect from the city grid when the grid shut down and continue running throughout the power outage.
Similarly, Co-op City in the Bronx relied on its 40-megawatt cogeneration plant to provide power to 60,000 residents in Sandy’s aftermath. Though the system was expensive to install, it ultimately saves the community money on energy bills and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the power outage debacle that followed, many have touted the advantages of renewable energy sources in such situations,especially when compared to the failures of the traditional grid. Compelling arguments were made for solar and wind in particular. Yet, both energy types also have their drawbacks in a storm scenario.
Though the Jersey Atlantic Wind Project outside Atlantic City encountered hurricane-force gusts during the storm, the turbines survived with no damage, according to OnEarth. Of course if power lines were down in the area, there was nowhere for the wind project’s energy to go once it was back up and running, but it’s still a notable accomplishment. OnEarth also notes that Sandy’s winds had died down somewhat by the time it hit New Jersey, and turbine manufacturers will have to improve their standards if they want their systems to survive stronger storms.
Last week, I wrote about Gov. Cuomo’s plans for wind power and how it might affect New York City in his New York Energy Highway Blueprint. The plan also details other ways that the City might benefit from the state’s energy updates. First off, it predicts that developing electricity transmission within the state will improve air quality in New York City, presumably by negating the need for City residents to use pollution-spewing generators during peak hours in the summer.
In addition, the blueprint considers the possibility of the Indian Point nuclear plant shutting down. A Request for Information brought in proposed projects totaling over 6,000 MW of energy that could be located in the New York City region or the Hudson Valley. However, there is no indication how many of those proposals involve renewable energy. Moreover, Indian Point has applied for an extension of its operating licenses, so the plans may never move forward.
Gov. Cuomo’s recently released New York Energy Highway Blueprint involves big plans for wind power – and how wind could benefit New York City. The plan examines a future where upstate wind farms and offshore turbines help to power the state’s biggest energy consumer. However, that future is still years away from becoming reality.
Significant upgrades must be made to New York’s electricity transmission in order for the City to benefit from upstate wind energy. Of the 6,000 megawatts of existing and proposed land-based wind farms in the state, none are in New York City, or even on Long Island or in the other counties immediately surrounding the City.
While the Blueprint calls for studies to examine the potential for offshore wind and how initial investments of such projects can be recuperated, those studies will not be completed until at least the end of 2014. The plan points to the failed proposals for offshore farms in the Great Lakes and off Jones Beach on Long Island. While offshore wind clearly shows promise, the governor’s Task Force advises proceeding with caution.