New York State is actively promoting the development and implementation of renewable energy sources. New York State’s 2015 Energy Plan has a goal of 50% of power coming from renewable sources by 2030.
Late last year, the Governor directed the New York State Department of Public Service (NYSDPS) to develop a Clean Energy Standard that will mandate requirements to ensure that the 50% renewable power goal is met. On January 25, 2016, the Staff of the NYSDPS issued a white paper that discusses four principal policy objectives in developing the Clean Energy Standard. These are:
- increasing renewable electricity supply to achieve 50% electric generation by renewable sources by 2030;
- supporting construction of renewable generation in the state;
- preventing premature closure of upstate nuclear facilities; and
- promoting the progress of the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision.
The New York State Public Service Commission is holding a series of public comment meetings throughout the state to get public feedback on what should be included in the Clean Energy Standard. The Long Island office of the NYSDPS held public comment hearings this past week. If you missed those hearings, you can still comment on the proposed standard by filing written comments with the Public Service Commission by May 31, 2016. (A link to the NYSDPS Staff White Paper and other documents on the Clean Energy Standard can be found here.
NYS Funding For Renewable Energy Projects
A few weeks ago, the Governor announced that New York State is making available $150 million in funding to support large-scale renewable energy projects across the state. The $150 million will be awarded through a competitive process. Contracts will be awarded for a term of up to 20 years. The initial application to qualify for this funding must be submitted to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority by May 26, 2016. More information can be found by clicking here.
The term “renewable energy” conjures up rows of solar panels. However, as noted in New York State’s 2015 Energy Plan, only about 25% of rooftops in the nation are suitable for solar panels. Where is the rest of the “renewable energy” to come from? Here is a quick description of renewable sources that state and local municipalities in New York may rely on to meet the 50% goal.
Harnessing wind power goes back hundreds of years. Those windmills in Holland are not just tourist attractions. Wind power today is more likely to come in the form of large wind turbines. The large blades rotate by the force of the wind, which rotates the shaft and spins the generator to create electricity. Land-based large-scale wind power facilities generated over 1,360 megawatts of power in New York in 2012. Offshore wind power plants are being studied and have the potential to provide between 350 to 700 megawatts of power.
As of 2010, hydropower represented 15% of power generation in New York State. One type of hydropower uses dams to store water in reservoirs. When the water is released, it activates generators to produce electricity. Another type is called run-of-river facilities. These depend upon drops in elevation to produce electricity. Another type of hydropower, hydrokinetic, generates electricity from free-flowing water going over turbines that are placed below water surfaces in tidal areas, rivers, canals, or wastewater treatment plants. Hydrokinetic technology is promising but not yet commercialized.
Biomass is organic matter derived from living organisms. It can be used as a source of energy. Obtaining energy from biomass, also called bioenergy, is not a new technique. Wood is the major source of bioenergy, and it produces energy when it is burned. Other sources of biomass include agricultural and forest waste, paper and pulp waste, and municipal waste. There produce energy when they are burned.
Biofuels is another category of biomass, which convert biomass into liquid fuel used in transportation. Ethanol and biodiesel are probably the most well-known examples. Corn or soybeans are combined with other ingredients to make these fuels. Landfills are another source of biomass fuels. The decomposition of landfill waste produces methane gas that can be collected and used as fuel.
Solar energy can come from the familiar solar photovoltaic panels used to produce electricity Another type of solar power, solar thermal power, is used to meet non-electric generating demands. It uses the sun’s power to directly heat water or interior spaces.
This type of renewable power uses heat from below the earth‘s surface to generate electricity and comes from subterranean hot water or steam reservoirs. This heat is accessed by drilling into the earth to tap these sources. Geothermal energy can be used in both large and small scale facilities. Large utilities use geothermal power to drive generators and produce electricity. A single home can also tap into a geothermal source for heating and cooling, usually through a heat pump. In winter, the pump transfers heat from the earth into a home; it reverses the process in summer, cooling the home by transferring heat from it back into the earth.
A fuel cell is composed of two electrodes (one positive and one negative) and an electrolyte that is located between the two electrodes. A chemical reaction happens inside the fuel cell that generates electricity. The most common fuel cell used in electric vehicles uses hydrogen and oxygen. The chemical reaction generates electricity to power the car and creates water as the exhaust product.
Renewable sources have the potential to generate significant amounts of energy in place of fossil fuels. It will be interesting to see what techniques the Clean Energy Standard will mandate to achieve the 50% by 2030 goal and also what public-private partnerships apply for the $150 million being made available by the State of New York as part of its effort to achieve this goal.