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Renewable energy gets $250 million shot in arm

Martin Junius
via Flickr
Will the state's fiscal crisis eclipse its intent to grow renewable energy?

The notion that New York State is broke has saturated the news the past few years. And doubly so since Governor Andrew Cuomo declared fixing the issue his numero uno agenda item.

So naturally when a NYS department announced yesterday there’s “$250 million” available to spend on renewable energy projects, the Innovation Trail took notice.

Not that all state business stops whenever the red ink starts to flow. But when rumors of 10,000 layoffs of state workers swirl around, dropping a quarter of a billion dollars on solar panels and wind turbines (which are still seen as risky in some corners given their intermittent energy supply) could rub some taxpayers the wrong way.

Are you hungry for some alphabet soup? The fund is managed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) and fulfills goals set forth by the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

Knowing exactly where this $250 million came from is hard to tell. Even if the $250 million fund does not come directly from taxpayers, from a public relations standpoint, this is trouble.

Just imagine the chatter: "Major cuts to Medicaid and they want to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on biomass burners!?"

All that aside, the money is here now, waiting to be spent.

So how will $250 million be doled out?

Anybody with a clean-energy project can submit an application. Deciding which are green lighted will happen before April. Quick turnaround!  

What’s this for?

It’s part of the state’s effort to diversify where its electricity comes from. By 2015, the hope is that 30 percent will come from renewable sources. When the state set these goals in 2003, 19 percent came from hydropower, solar, etc.

Nearly 30 states have a renewable portfolio standard.

Will this help the state's ailing economy?

Theoretically. If in-state renewable energy businesses are able to build projects that otherwise would have remained dormant, then yes. Plus, the state is betting on this money as an investment. With fossil fuels eventually drying up, NYS wants establish sizable renewable energy resources as a buffer.

So you want to apply?

Just fill these out.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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