Have a large site ready for renewable energy development in New York? The state is looking for you.

On July 22, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a search for possible sites, requesting information (RFI) from local communities and private parties about prospective sites.[1]

This announcement furthers New York’s Clean Energy Standard set in 2019 of reaching 70 percent electric power demand from renewable resources by 2030. To reach this ambitious goal, New York enacted the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (the Act) as part of a massive budget bill signed into law April 3, 2020. The Act establishes the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, puts in place a new, state-level fast-track siting process and set of uniform standards, and advances the identification and assessment of “Build Ready” sites for developing large-scale projects. A state-level siting office is a new concept, one that should help developers find areas amenable to large-scale project. Passing the Act was an effort by the state to create more green jobs and get the economy back on track amidst the COVID crisis.

The RFI, launched by the New York State Renewable Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), allows local governments, community members, private parties, and other interested parties to nominate potential Build-Ready sites for large-scale (at least 65 acres) renewable energy projects. Priorities for the Build-Ready Program include:

  • the re-use of previously developed or disturbed sites;
  • protecting environmental justice areas, high quality agricultural soils and ecologically important landscapes;
  • leveraging existing or planned infrastructure; and
  • providing benefits to host communities.

Preferred sites include brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, dormant electric generating facilities, and other underutilized sites.

A state-level siting office should help developers find areas amenable to a large-scale project and expedite the resolution of site-specific concerns. NYSERDA will conduct a viability evaluation of nominated sites which may include a review of environmental site conditions, ability of the site to interconnect to the grid, discussions with the site owner, nominating party, and local officials, and review of whether the site aligns with the Build-Ready principles. Once sites are fully permitted, NYSERDA will competitively auction the developed sites, bundled with contracts for renewable energy payments, to provide a de-risked package for developers to construct and operate projects at these sites.

NYSERDA is taking site nominations for a year, from July 21, 2020, through July 20, 2021.  Schiff Hardin can assist in helping to evaluate sites or to prepare documentation for this NYSERDA program.

[1] This RFI was announced together with New York’s announcement of the largest combined solicitations for renewable energy ever issued in the United States. The requests for proposals, announced July 21, 2020 by the New York Renewable Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Port Authority, seek up to 4,000 megawatts of offshore wind and land-based renewable energy projects.