New York sets wind record, a model for booming US renewables market

Reading time: 4 minutes
8 April 2015

NEW YORK: New York State has broken a new record for wind generation, says the New York Independent System Operator. According to the regulator, the State overstepped the 1.5 gigawatt milestone of wind energy generated on March 2 – accounting for 7% of overall energy demand.

The State’s total wind capacity is currently 1,744 megawatts (MW) – a stark increase of 3,500% from its 2005 level of 48 MW. Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) also ranks New York as the 9th state for overall solar energy installed capacity and 7th when only considering solar capacity added in 2014. In fact, recent figures from SEIA suggest New York installed as much solar in 2014 as it did in the last three years combined, with 147,4 MW of capacity added last year.

“Wind power presents a tremendous opportunity for the US to switch to clean, affordable, reliable power,” commented Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director, The Climate Group. “According to the US Department of Energy, wind could supply as much as 20% of America’s electricity by 2030. But we need a predictable long-term policy if wind is to reach its full potential in America. New York State is demonstrating how sub-national governments can successfully set long-term emissions reduction and renewables policies – and is now clearly reaping the benefits.”

LEADING THE CLEAN REVOLUTION

New York State is providing a leading model on renewables development, particularly for wind and solar energy, with an ambitious goal of cutting greenhouse gases emission 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The growth reflects a wider positive trend in the United States, as renewables are booming around the country. In fact, wind and solar energy capacity has tripled since 2008 in the US, according to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Last year, US net generation of electricity from solar also grew faster than fossil fuels compared to 2013, according to a report by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). ‘Net generation’ is the effective gross energy produced by a certain power source minus the energy consumed at generating stations, so is different from energy capacity, which refers to the maximum power potential in place for a certain technology.

According to these figures, solar thermal and photovoltaic accounted for 9,036 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2013, while in 2014 was 18,321 GWh – an increase of 102.8%. Wind also grew considerably, from 167,840 GWh in 2013 to 181,791 GWh last year, a jump of 8.3%.

However, in terms of absolute net generation coal and natural gas still lead the power industry with 1,585,697 GWh (+0.3% from 2013) and 1,121,928 GWh (-0.3%) respectively in 2014.

ELECTRICITY GRID CHALLENGE

Increasing competitiveness of renewables poses big challenges to America’s aging energy infrastructure. Large scale integration of renewables requires modernization of the grid to improve its flexibility and accept increasing amounts of energy from distributed sources.

To encourage distributed energy generation, the State of New York recently announced the Reforming Energy Vision plan. “A 21st century economy needs a 21st century power grid, and these reforms will ensure New Yorkers get the best possible service from their utilities while improving the state-wide economy,” New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo underlined. “This state is in need of a modern and efficient energy system, and we are proud to take the steps to build a sustainable way to deliver energy to every home in New York.”

Under this plan, utility companies will only be allowed to distribute rather than own distributed energy sources, such as rooftop solar or small wind turbines. This measure should ensure fairer competition, as utilities will need to collaborate with other companies and service providers, to create a grid that exchanges power rather than merely delivers it. The plan could alter New York State’s energy markets, making room for smaller sources of electricity and shifting away from large fossil fuel power producers.

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by Arianna Tozzi

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