NY Green Deal: Mandate 100 Percent Clean Power by 2040

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the proposal to mandate 100 percent clean power by 2040 in the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo is proposing a mandate of 100 percent clean, carbon-free electricity in New York State by 2040, the most aggressive goal in the United States and five years sooner than the target recently adopted by California. The cornerstone of this new goal is an increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy Standard mandate from 50 percent to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. This globally unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy will include:

Quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, up from 2,400 megawatts by 2030

I addressed the offshore wind target in a different post.

Doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023

As a meteorologist I fail to see how solar this far north and in a climatic regime with as many clouds and as much snow as New York in general and near the Great Lakes in particular makes much sense. Furthermore a study by Ferroni & Hopkirk 2016 shows that after 25 years, solar panel farms in Germany & Switzerland produced only 82% of the energy required to manufacture, install, & maintain them. It also demonstrated that at this point in time (at current solar panel efficiency) latitude 35N (approximately the southern border Tennessee) is the solar energy break even line. After 25 years of operation, solar farms north of this line produce LESS energy than it takes to manufacture, install, & maintain them, while solar farms south of this line produce more. There is more discussion of this analysis and its conclusions here. In any event, I believe that adherents for the New York Green New Deal should explain how solar in New York is immune to these issues.

More than doubling new large-scale land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard

I hope that the State eventually provides a roadmap that quantifies which resources get which subsidies under which programs but I am not optimistic.

Maximizing the contributions and potential of New York’s existing renewable resources

I support this platitude but hope that this was part of the plan all along.

Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030

None of the announcements for energy storage have included the amount of energy in MWh in their goals. Instead they always use MW or the power capacity to describe the projects. Because the amount of energy is the key parameter this suggests energy innumeracy on the part of the State’s politicians. I also note that I agree with those that believe that grid storage is impossible.

Achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity will require investments in resources capable of meeting diverse demands throughout the state, as well as a substantial increase in cost-effective energy efficiency. Harnessing a complementary set of carbon-free energy resources will assure reliability and affordability for all New Yorkers as the electricity system is both modernized and optimized. To ensure that clean energy opportunities are available for those that need it most, as part of this nation-leading commitment, Governor Cuomo is directing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), in concert with the Department of Public Service (DPS), to expand and enhance their Solar For All program and couple it with energy savings opportunities, increasing access to affordable and clean energy for low-income, environmental justice and other underserved communities.

I am not confident that renewables can ever supply enough energy to New York City to maintain reliability. Given that a blackout in the City is a bad thing this could be a fatal flaw. Consider that in order to prevent the situation that caused the 1977 New York City the New York Independent System Operator currently requires at least 80% of New York City’s electric generating capacity needs be met through in-City generation. The problem is that diffuse renewable generation needs space which is at a premium in the City. The State needs to show how they can possibly provide enough carbon-free electricity to cover peak generation. On the peak hour of generation in 2017 the load in the New York City zone was 10,671 MW. If the City were to rely on solar power to provide the load from the time that solar power added to the system until the next day you would need (219,078 MWh) and 80% of the total load would have to come from in-City or 175,262 MWh. I did a back of the envelope estimate of the solar and storage necessary to cover this peak in Table 1 New York City peak load generation with solar and storage. I used a solar hourly distribution curve for California in July which should be conservative to estimate hourly variation. I estimated the amount of solar needed by subtracting the daily solar output energy in MWh (daily sum of the Generation column) against 80% of the actual NYC load (the Limit column). I took a naïve approach and determined the necessary solar generation as the level that would eliminate any negative value in the Difference column. On the peak day there was a minimum positive difference of 10 MWh at hour 6 when the system would still rely on storage to provide power and determined that if there were 26,045 MW of solar capacity the needs could be met. That is a low estimate because there is no provision for clouds, battery charging times or charging efficiencies. Nonetheless, using a rule of thumb that 1kW needs 100 square feet of space that estimated capacity would need 629 square miles which is more than double the size of New York City.

This crude analysis is only meant to serve as an indication just how work has to be done to develop this plan. I think that the Governor and advocates for his agenda need to explain how this will work, how much it will cost and how much it will affect global warming before we are committed to this path.


Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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