Solar Energy Issues in Upstate New York

Led by Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York’s solar ambitions are a key component in his agenda for to ensure “vital progress on the climate” is continued. This is a post on one aspect of the NY-Sun program. I am a retired meteorologist who worked in the electric generation sector for over 35 years and I know that New York is not a particularly sunny place in the winter so I wanted to check out potential issues with solar variability during the peak summer and winter loads. The opinions expressed in this post reflect my personal opinion.

Introduction

NY-Sun is supposed to make solar affordable for all New Yorkers. According to the NY Sun section in the NYS website Leading on Climate Change and Protecting our Environment:

  • NY-Sun is developing a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry in the State by incentivizing New Yorkers, businesses, and communities to invest in solar energy.
  • The Governor’s $1 billion NY-Sun program has grown solar power in New York State by nearly 800% since 2011, and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 25%.
  • The program aims to add more than 3 gigawatts of installed solar capacity in the State by 2023, enough solar energy to power 400,000 homes.

(Proof reading this before publication I was struck by these claims so I posted on them at my companion site.)

In order to evaluate the effect of solar variability on the transmission grid I needed an example facility. New York State’s permitting process for power plants of 25 megawatts or higher has extensive requirements for public involvement. Invenergy Solar Project Development LLC has started the permitting process for construction of Horseshoe Solar Farm which I will use as my example. According to the Horseshoe Solar Farm – Public Involvemen Program it will be a 180 MW Solar Electric Generating Facility Located in the Town of Caledonia, Livingston County, New York. Eventually I will address this particular project in detail later but this post only looks at potential performance during peak periods.

It is interesting to note that the New York Independent System Operator had this to say about solar photo voltaic (PV) facilities in their 2018 Load & Capacity Data report:

The actual impact of solar PV varies considerably by hour of day. The hour of the actual NYCA peak varies yearly. The forecast of solar PV-related reductions in summer peak reported in Table I-9 assumes that the NYCA peak occurs from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT in late July. The forecast of solar PV-related reductions in winter peak is zero because the sun sets before the assumed peak hour of 6 p.m. EST.

Because reliability planning necessarily focuses on peak periods I decided to look at the loads on the 2017 peak summer day (July 19, 2017) and the 2017-2018 peak winter day (January 5, 2018). The load data are available from the NYISO on hourly or 5-minute intervals. I decided to estimate the capacity from this facility during these peak periods (one week before and one week after the peak day) using the hourly data. I also wondered about the short term variations so I used the five minute data for the 72 hours around each peak day.

Analysis

In order to estimate the solar generation output from this facility I used solar radiation data from two nearby NYS Mesonet meteorological systems (Rush and York). The NYS mesonet is a network of 126 weather observing sites across New York State. The official website of the Mesonet includes a tab for live data that brings up station information for the 125 operating individual sites. You can change the station by clicking on any dot on the state map. Data available include wind direction and speed, temperature at two levels, relative humidity, precipitation, pressure, solar radiation, snow depth, and camera images. Although there is immense potential for this network it apparently served the purpose of Albany politicians to implement the network but they neglected to fund an interface to readily access the data. It is if the National Weather Service did not provide access to historical data they collect. Through the good will of SUNY Albany staff I did get the solar insolation data on an hourly and 5-minute interval for two nearby sites that I used to estimate solar generation.

I calculated the electrical generation output from the 180 MW Horseshoe Solar Farm based on my internet research. I think it is a pretty good estimate but if someone reading this could confirm that or tell me what I am doing wrong I would appreciate it. The mesonet stations provide solar insolation measured in watts per meter squared. I assumed that the 180 MW of solar cells produced 180 MW when the solar insolation equals 800 watts per square meter (the PVUSA test condition) and I did not account for any other factors such as the cell temperature or any losses. So my naïve formula was simply the observed input solar insolation times 180 divided by 800.

The first question to address is how much power can we expect from a 180 MW facility in upstate New York during the peak periods? Frankly, I would expect this location to be pretty good relative to other central to western New York sites. Locations closer to Syracuse would be worse and locations due east of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario would be much worse because of lake-effect clouds. The Estimated Solar Generation from Horseshoe Solar Farm table lists the results. In the summer the results are pretty good. According to my methodology peak output could be over 200 MW when insolation is highest and the capacity factor over the entire 15-day peak period is over 23%. However, in the winter the solar generation output would be abysmal. The peak generation hour was only 103 MW and the capacity factor of the 15-day peak period would be no more than 7%.

The second question is what about the shorter term variability in solar generation output. The Genesee Load and Horseshoe Solar figure lists 5-minute load (MW) data for the Genesee Control Area Total Load (pink circles), estimated Horseshoe solar potential output using the Rush NYS Mesonet station solar radiation data (blue box) and the estimated Horseshoe solar potential output using the York NYS Mesonet station solar radiation data (red cross).

There are several issues. Note that the scales are different so for starters this solar farm makes little difference to the energy needs of the Genesee NYISO control area load.  As noted by NYISO the solar potential energy diurnal cycle does not match the load peak well because actual load peaks after solar generation peaks. The estimates of solar generation from both sites shows quite a bit of variation during the day. For example, the peak insolation at 12:55 EDT is 1,046 watts per square meter but ten minutes later it is down to 491 MW. I estimate that will translate into a swing of over 100 MW that some facility somewhere has to cover. Also note that there are numerous periods when the estimated solar generation using Rush data differ from estimates using York data. This suggests that it was a partly cloudy day with significant variations in solar insolation. Because these are 5-minute averages the instantaneous variations are likely larger.

Ramifications

As I suspected these data show that the proposed NY-Sun solar buildout in Upstate New York will not end well. With respect to the abysmal capacity factor of the winter peak keep in mind that Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision includes plans to convert residential home heating to electrical heating and there are activists that not only want to do that on an accelerated schedule but also are insisting that all the electrical power be produced by wind and solar energy only. Theoretically, battery storage could provide all the renewable power. However, only the energy innumerate or energy naïve could possibly think that solar energy coupled with battery storage could provide enough energy to heat all upstate residences during winter peak periods without massive overbuilding of both solar farms and battery storage simply because solar potential in the winter is so poor.

The summer short-term period data illustrate the fallacy that solar is cost-equivalent to coal or gas or whatever the claim is today. Fossil-fired facilities provide near constant energy but these data show that solar has huge variations. When considered alone, if this facility or any other solar facility gets built someone else on the grid has to provide support so that power sent to the grid is near constant. Battery energy storage can provide that service and frankly given the degree of intermittency on a day like this would be the only solution that might work. However, any battery solution at least doubles the cost of solar. Not surprisingly it is even worse. If you dedicate a battery array to providing smooth power you cannot use the battery array for storage. The State really needs to explain how they propose to incorporate 3 gigawatts of solar.

On the other hand, if battery storage is a requirement for a solar facility these impacts are addressed. That way their wildly fluctuating output does not impact the grid and the units can be dispatched to match the observed load. Of course if that is required the price of solar at least doubles so it is unlikely that prudent and politically inconvenient approach will be adopted.

NYS Energy Profile Patterns and Trends

On March 1, 2019 the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) Energy Analysis program published Patterns and Trends – New York State Energy Profiles: 2002-2016 which they described as a “comprehensive storehouse of energy statistics and data on energy consumption, supply sources, and price and expenditure information for New York State.”   I agree and strongly recommend that anyone who has any interest in New York State energy download the document and check it out.

For numbers geeks like me one of the features that I really love is the fact that the tables are linked to spreadsheets. For example, Table 3-1b: NYS Primary Consumption of Energy by Sector in the report only lists data from 2002 to 2016 but when you click on the table and download the spreadsheet data back to 1980 are available. Moreover, the data are in a spreadsheet so you can process it as you wish.

It is very disappointing that there was a 26 month lag between the end of the report period and the publication of the data. I consider this one of the best products of NYSERDA but apparently under the rule of the Cuomo Administration it is not a priority. Before the Cuomo Administration this report came out 13 months after the end of the reporting period. The 1997-2011 report was 18 months later and the last three reports were dated in October so were 22 months late.

I will be using these data in future posts but I cannot help but show how useful it is in one example. National Grid’s “Northeast 80×50 Pathway” is a blueprint for the region to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (“80×50”). The first of its kind in the Northeast, the Pathway spans seven states (New York and the six New England states), and addresses the three main sectors of emissions: transportation, electricity, and heat. If you search on “National Grid Northeast 80 by 50 Pathway” you will get a list of fawning articles talking about how great this is but I am a customer worried about home heating and they are talking about a plan for that.

The politically correct approach for reducing emissions from home heating is to convert to heat pumps. According to the pathway:

Heat pumps are very different from standard electric resistance heaters. Compared to traditional “baseboard” technologies, heat pumps achieve a 50-80% reduction in electricity use by moving heat rather than creating it. They use conventional refrigeration technology to absorb heat from one source (air, ground, or water), transfer it to another source, and raise it or lower it to a temperature suitable for space heating (or cooling) and hot water. Heat pumps still face major adoption challenges. In particular, ground-source heat pumps need to achieve cost declines to become more accessible to customers, and air-source heat pumps need to be paired with proper building insulation.

The question is just how much energy are we talking about. The Patterns and Trends document includes a table of NYS Net Residential Consumption of Energy by Fuel Type that shows just ambitious changes to home heating will be. Total residential consumption of energy typically totals 800 TBtu or 800 trillion British thermal units. Thomas Fuller writing about the challenges of meeting the Green New Deal notes that a BTU is a unit of energy–strictly speaking the energy required to raise the temperature of a pint of water from 39 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. About the amount of energy released from a burning wooden match. There are around 115,000 BTU per gallon of gasoline and one TBtu is equivalent to 39,000 cars driving round trip between New York and Los Angeles if the cars get 25 miles per gallon.

I graphed the data to see the NYS Residential Energy Consumption trends. Natural gas use has increased over time, coal has disappeared and petroleum products have decreased.  Today Natural gas provides 58% of the home heating energy, petroleum products 16%, and wood around 2%. Electricity, solar and geothermal provide 24%. National Grid’s pathway suggests that petroleum product heating should be converted to electricity which would mean that 128 TBtu of energy needs to be replaced. While that seems plenty ambitious to me there are those that think that we need to convert all home heating to electricity, solar and geothermal. I think that the disruption and expense of complete conversion far out-weighs any benefits but that will be the subject of another post.

NY Green New Deal – NYS 2010 Climate Action Plan

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. The announcement noted that it will create the State’s first statutory Climate Action Council, comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral.  Not mentioned was the fact that there was a previous Climate Action Council that was not created by statute. This post will highlight the draft plan produced by the first Climate Action Council in late 2010.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):

Executive Order No. 24 set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in New York State by 80 percent below the levels emitted in 1990 by the year 2050. The Executive Order also created the New York State Climate Action Council (CAC) with a directive to prepare a climate action plan. The climate action plan would assess how all economic sectors can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The Plan would also identify the extent to which such actions support New York’s goals for a clean-energy economy.

On November 9, 2010, the CAC released an Interim Report that had been prepared with assistance from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and other CAC member-agency staff, the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) and other stakeholders. This Interim Report is presented by sections and chapters at the DEC website.

First Climate Action Council Plan

For my purposes, Chapter 4: Envisioning a Low-Carbon Future is of most interest. This effort is based in large part upon a Brookhaven National Lab white paper entitled Envisioning a Low-Carbon Clean Energy Economy in New York. The ultimate question is whether the earlier New York State 80 by 50 goal is feasible not only based on cost but on technical considerations. I had originally intended to dissect this vision of the future to address those points but I think the following Important Note to Readers from the white paper speaks to my concerns. I have highlighted the critical point.

Important note to readers:

This is the first complete draft of a paper designed to inform the NYS Climate Action Council’s work to develop a State Climate Action Plan.

The Council’s mandate is uncommonly broad in scope. It has a planning horizon far longer than what most planners address. It entails large uncertainties. No clear precedent for an enterprise of this scope exists.

Consequently, this draft paper is necessarily provisional. As the planning process proceeds, the paper will be revised, and it will steadily gain in value as fresh insights are acquired and the knowledge base it draws from expands.

One feature of this paper is a description of three scenarios that illustrate different versions of a low-carbon 2050 future for the state. It’s important that readers understand that these scenarios are offered for illustrative purposes only. In no sense do they constitute the elements of a plan, and indeed even a casual review of them reveals that there is no way in which they could be fashioned into a plan. Rather, they’re intended to facilitate and provoke thinking about the future.

We hope other parties will generate their own 80×50 scenarios and share them. The ability to imagine a sustainable future, model it rigorously, and explore it is as vital to achieving that future as the clean-energy technologies, best management practices, and behavioral changes that must be developed, advanced, and adopted.

Conclusion

The Brookhaven White Paper developed three future scenarios. One scenario expanded on existing programs to make the most obvious emission reductions. Although it assumed “significant changes to current practices, this scenario falls far short of achieving 80 percent emissions reduction by 2050.” The second scenario assumed electrification of the entire light-duty vehicle fleet to hydrogen fuel produced with nuclear or other low-carbon electricity, elimination of fossil fuel combustion in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors and significant use of locally-sourced biofuels for trucks and aircraft but was only able to make a 79% reduction. In order to get to an 80% reduction the final scenario assumes 95% of all vehicle miles are all-electric miles, eliminates fossil fuel combustion in the residential/commercial/industrial sector with “part of the resultant increase in electricity demand met through local, point-of-use solar and much of the remainder with low-carbon generation and the wide-spread use of carbon-capture and sequestration”.

It does not take much effort to come to the same conclusion as Brookhaven that there is no way that these scenarios could be fashioned into a plan. Ultimately, the question is whether there is any possible plan to meet the ambitious goals of New York’s Green New Deal.

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.

 

NY Green Deal: Create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda

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 plan to create a carbon-to-value innovation agenda as part of the New York Green New Deal.

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

Create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda and Establish the CarbonWorks Foundry

Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change will require not only reductions in emissions using existing technologies, but also innovation, particularly with respect to withdrawing CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere. Innovative new technologies are emerging in response to this challenge that can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and either permanently sequester the carbon underground or transform it into valuable fuel or products, known as carbon-to-value. While many of these technologies are still in their infancy, they show promise in the collective fight to address climate change.

The concept is to turn carbon dioxide into fuel and wasteful chemicals. While I am not a chemical engineer the idea that the waste products can be turned into a fuel without a whole lot of energy going back into the system seems a bit far-fetched. On the other hand the concept of using CO2 instead of sequestering it underground is appealing.

Accordingly, Governor Cuomo is announcing that in 2019, New York State, with the help of experts, environmental groups, academic institutions, and other stakeholders will create a Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda as a blueprint for the future of carbon-to-value technology as well as carbon capture, utilization and storage in New York. NYSERDA will provide $15 million to support multiple efforts to further New York’s Carbon-to-Value Innovation Agenda. This will include NYSERDA and SUNY working with academic institutions, experts, and philanthropic partners to establish the CarbonWorks Foundry, a new incubator and accelerator devoted to carbon-to-value technology development with a focus on carbon harvesting. Finally, NYSERDA will engage other State agencies to create a framework for a low-carbon procurement standard, which can create a market for low-carbon cement and concrete, building materials, and other valuable low-emissions products.

For these types of blueprints I would be more supportive if they included provisions to make sure that the Foundry would terminate if certain criteria are not met. If it is promising great but if it is not then accept that we found out that the concept while promising in theory was not practical. If any of these ideas go forward they should include metrics and regular reporting.

NY Green Deal: Increase Carbon Sequestration

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 plan to increase carbon sequestration and meet a land challenge as part of the New York Green New Deal.

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

Increase Carbon Sequestration and Meet the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Challenge

In 2015, Governor Cuomo launched the Climate Resilient Farming Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to increase resiliency of New York State farms impacted by climate change. Just last year, New York accepted the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands challenge, ensuring that land stewardship and land sequestration efforts join energy reduction and adaptation activities as part of our collective climate solutions.

According to the New York Soil & Water Conservation Committee website “The goal of the Climate Resilient Farming Program is to reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change (mitigation) and to increase the resiliency of New York State farms in the face of a changing climate (adaptation).” The plan is to mitigate and adapt.

Estimates of annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (apart from agricultural energy use, which is classified differently) in New York State range from 5.3 to 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Manure management is responsible for roughly 15% of the emissions; emissions from soils are slightly under a third of the total. This represents a major opportunity to reduce emissions.

 While New York State is projected to increase precipitation overall, it is expected to come in short, extreme precipitation events in between mild droughts. This represents a major risk to farms, particularly those in low-lying or flood prone areas. Even very local downpours and cloud bursts can cause substantial damage to farms.

On the face of it this program is innocuous but is it effective? According to the most recent press release I could find: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $2.2 million will be awarded to 34 farms across the state through the Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program. Launched by the Governor in 2015, the program helps farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for and recover after extreme weather events. Through three rounds of funding to date, the state has provided $5.1 million to 40 total projects, assisting nearly 70 farms. I have included a description of the awards made for 2018 at the end of the post. My biggest problem is that the 34 farms received money from the state for projects that in some cases seem like business as usual practices. Unless a program can provide this kind of support to every farm in the state then where are we going with this? If my neighbor gets money to do a project why in the world would I do it, however appropriate for the environment, unless I get money too?

To meet our Natural and Working Lands commitment, Governor Cuomo will establish new research partnerships to incorporate forest and agricultural carbon into New York’s greenhouse gas inventory and climate strategy and to establish a carbon sequestration goal for our natural and working lands. To help achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo proposes doubling the State’s investment in the Climate Resilient Farming program and creating new forestry grant programs—enhancing the Healthy Soils NY program and enabling farmers, forest owners, and communities to achieve the economic and environmental co-benefits of sound management practices.

I think the concept that increasing the carbon content of the soil is a no regrets solution. The basic concept is that building healthy soil sequesters carbon dioxide. My point is that healthy soil is good for the planet whatever the effect of CO2 on climate. As mentioned above, however, I think the New York program has to take the big picture approach how to implement their plan across all the farms and forests rather than awarding grants to the politically connected.

Awarded Projects Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program April 27, 2018

  • Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $74,494 to assist one farm with the implementation of a 45-acre prescribed grazing and 5.7-acre riparian buffer system that will increase soil health and reduce farm based greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Herkimer County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $432,659 to work with a dairy farm to install a manure storage cover and flare. The system will dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $10,256 to work with one vegetable farm to implement cover crops using no-till planting methods. This project will plant 14 acres of diverse species cover crops to improve carbon sequestration and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $149,085 to work with one dairy farm to install a riparian buffer system and an irrigation water management system. The systems will mitigate nutrient and sediment runoff and allow the farm to store and convey water as needed in preparation for any drought situations.
  • Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $119,907 to work with four farms to implement cover crops to improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $281,686 to work with a diverse livestock farm to install a manure storage cover and flare to dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $156,790 to work with one dairy farm to expand a clean water storage reservoir to an irrigation reservoir that will provide additional capacity for drought and flood periods and install a center pivot irrigation system.
  • Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $128,600 to work with one farm to implement a water and sediment control basin system that will prevent erosion and protect the Village of Chittenango from an increased flooding potential due to runoff from the farm.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $40,760 to work with one farm to implement a 78-acre prescribed grazing system that will increase soil health, improve soil carbon sequestration by promoting plant growth throughout the year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $180,856 to work with one farm to implement a 1.05-acre wetland that will allow for greater storage of stormwater. The project will help to reduce the flood volume downstream and ultimately reduce sedimentation into Skaneateles Lake.
  • Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $103,500 to work with one farm to install riparian buffers systems and ponds for stormwater capture and irrigation. The systems will sequester carbon dioxide emissions and reduce farm runoff to the Boquet River and Lake Champlain.
  • Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $43,696 to work with one farm to install a riparian buffer system and livestock access control. The systems will reduce streambank erosion and sedimentation, provide a reliable water source for grazing animals, and improve the capability of the farm to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  • Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $85,024 to work with one farm to implement diverse species cover crops that will improve soil quality, reduce erosion during extreme weather events, and increase soil organic matter.
  • Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $82,268 to work with five farms to implement cover crops. These projects will improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  •  Southern Tier
  • Chenango County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $77,255 to work with six farms to implement cover crops. Cover crops are planted to improve soil quality, reduce erosion, and to increase soil organic matter to improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought and decrease the impacts of flooding downstream.
  • Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $205,000 to work with seven farms that include dairy, crop, and beef/sheep farms, in three priority watersheds, to implement cover crops. This project will allow for cover crops throughout nearly the entire growing season, which will conserve soil, improve water holding capacity to help mitigate impacts of extreme storm events, and help to protect several public drinking water sources.

NY Green Deal: Investments in the Clean Tech Economy

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 multi-billion dollar price tag of the New York Green New Deal.

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

Demonstrating New York’s real-time commitment to implementing the most ambitious clean energy agenda in the United States, Governor Cuomo is also announcing $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects across upstate New York. These projects will drive a total of $4 billion in direct investment in New York’s growing clean energy economy, as well as add over 1,650 megawatts of capacity and generate over 3,800,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually – enough to power nearly 550,000 homes and create over 2,600 short-term and long-term jobs. Once all permitting and local requirements are met, several projects are expected to break ground as early as August 2019 and all projects are expected to be operational by 2022. The projects will reduce carbon emissions by more than 2 million metric tons, equivalent to taking nearly 437,000 cars off the road. Combined with the renewable energy projects previously announced under the Clean Energy Standard, New York has now awarded more than $2.9 billion to 46 projects, accelerating New York’s progress and commitment to Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) described the 20 large-scale projects in a press release. Table 1 green new deal clean energy project investments lists the projects and provides some details. There are 1,040 MW of solar at 16 sites and 613.7 MW of wind at 4 sites with a total of 45 MW of energy storage included at three facilities.

New York State has extensive electric facility siting requirements for any project of 25 MW or greater. Article Ten is supposed to provide a common framework for siting generation facilities in a streamlined permitting process. There are specific requirements for environmental and public health analyses. However, this process is time consuming and costly. While there are timing requirements for agency responses, nonetheless in my opinion it is practically impossible to meet all the requirements in less than five years. Of the 1654 MW in the announced projects, there is one small 4.99 MW project and eight 19.99 MW capacity projects (159.92 MW total) that are exempt from the Article Ten requirements. Of the remaining 11 projects, there are four projects totaling 462.69 MW that have not submitted anything to the Article Ten Siting Board, four projects totaling 499 MW that have completed the first step by submitting Public Involvement Programs, two projects totaling 237.5 MW have completed the second step by submitting their preliminary scoping plans and one 290 MW project has reached the third step submitting their application.

 The competitive awards total $1.5 billion and are supposed to provide more than 2 million tons of carbon reductions. Assuming that they really meant carbon dioxide for the 2 million tons that means 750 dollars per ton reduction cost. In 2015 NYS electric sector CO2 emissions were 32 million tons. If the New York Green New Deal were to rely on the NYSERDA competitive award process for those reductions the State is looking at a staggering cost of $24 billion.