Hochul’s solar expansion would power one in six New York homes

Program to distribute 10 gigawatts slated to spur $4.4 billion in private investment

Kathy Hochul, governor of New York (Getty Images, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
Kathy Hochul, governor of New York (Getty Images, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

After the 2019 Climate Act laid out ambitious goals for solar expansion by 2025, New York state says it has nearly met its original targets and now plans to up the amperage.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week the state would work to distribute at least 10 gigawatts of solar by 2030, a metric that would power almost 700,000 more households — about one in every six owner-occupied homes in New York, according to U.S. Census data.

The state had initially aimed for power to distribute six gigawatts by 2025. Public data on New York’s energy commitments suggest it still has a ways to go before reaching that goal.

Since 2013, New York has grown its solar energy capacities from 74 megawatts — less than one gigawatt — to just 2.2 gigawatts, according to the NY Solar Map from the City University of New York. Most of that expansion has come from small-scale installations, such as rooftop panels on single-family homes, the U.S. Energy Information Administration found.

But Hochul’s new expansion plan reveals much of that legwork is in the rearview. The plan says more than 93 percent of the target six gigawatts has either been completed or is at an “advanced state of development.”

The state took that progress as a sign to raise the bar and open the door to more investment. To hit the new 10-gigawatt benchmark, Hochul expects to pull $4.4 billion in private investment.

Recent years have shown that when it comes to solar, there is money to go around.

The state said the program has pulled in $5.8 billion in investment since its launch in 2014, and the market has gained momentum in recent years as governments have buckled down on hitting renewable energy goals.

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In April, Blackstone partnered with Strata Solar to fund $150 million in solar developments across North America. SolarREIT, a solar real estate investment fund, closed on a $4.2 million deal in September that would support 25 megawatts of solar projects in New York.

The state’s solar program is part of the larger goal to achieve 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. The state’s achievements in the sector so far signal progress, but also underscore how much farther New York has to go to reach that metric.

As of September, just under 30 percent of the state’s electricity came from renewable sources, with hydroelectric doing most of the work each month, the EIA found. Natural gas still contributes the lion’s share; In September, it produced 4,823 gigawatt-hours.

If New York is able to distribute 10 gigawatts of solar by 2030, that power could generate over 1,788 gigawatt-hours per month, according to estimates of solar power capabilities by the Freeing Energy Project. That leaves New York heavily dependent on electricity generated by fossil fuels.

Still, the state’s most recent progress report showed it could cover 50 percent of its electricity demand through existing energy sources or contracted projects.

It expects offshore wind and distributed energy resources, such as in-home generators, to bridge the rest of that gap.

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