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New York lures developers with 50% renewables target

The Empire State's annual procurement rounds for large-scale renewables are having the intended effect on the development pipeline, an official says

New York’s plan to attract wind and solar developers to the state with annual procurement rounds towards its 50% renewables target for 2030 is working in spades, an official tells Recharge.

Last year the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (Nyserda) launched the first in what will be a regular series of competitive solicitations for large-scale renewables, and the results – announced in March – exceeded all expectations.

While Nyserda had sought 1.5 million MWh of renewable power annually in the first solicitation, it ended up backing 26 projects totaling nearly 1.4GW of capacity that are expected to deliver 3.2 million MWh – more than twice what the state agency had been looking for. The solicitation drew 88 bids.

“Prices were very good,” says Doreen Harris, Nyserda’s director for large-scale renewables, and “there were projects that were very responsibly developed”. Going big seemed like a “cost-effective way to launch our progress towards the [50%] Clean Energy Standard goals”.

New York sourced around 24% of its electricity from renewables in January, according to the US Energy Information Administration – much of it coming from upstate hydroelectric plants.

As expected, onshore wind was the biggest winner in the first round, with three projects from developers Invenergy, EverPower, and Calpine accounting for a little over half of the total capacity awarded, or 733MW. That’s a huge step forward for the Empire State’s wind market, which has about 1.8GW in place today.

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All winning projects must be on line by 2022, but wind developers will move faster than that to take advantage of the fading production tax credit.

Invenergy’s winning 340MW Alle-Catt project, spread across three counties in western New York, will be among the largest wind farms ever built in the eastern US. Meanwhile, Calpine’s 122MW Bluestone project will include 6MW of battery storage, a trend Nyserda is encouraging for future solicitations.

In late April Nyserda launched its second solicitation, once again looking for 1.5 million MWh – though it’s possible it may end up procuring more.

The current round and future rounds can be expected to remain intensely competitive, not least because the momentum building in New York’s renewables market is drawing new developers to the state.

“We’re seeing exactly what we wanted to see from the perspective of the pipeline of projects under development in New York,” Harris says, noting that the state’s interconnection queue continues to grow.

“We’re seeing new wind and solar developers come into the state. And we’re seeing developers, particularly on the solar side, who were working at a smaller scale and are now expanding to utility-scale projects in the state.”

Many leading US wind developers have big projects underway in New York, including NextEra Energy, EDP Renewables, Apex Clean Energy and RES Americas.

Other states have taken notice of the acceleration of New York's renewables market, including New Jersey, which recently followed suit with an identical 50% target for 2030 of its own.

While wind continues to dominate New York’s market for new renewables projects, Harris notes that solar has emerged as a serious competitor.

Before the latest solicitation, Nyserda had only backed one solar project in more than a decade of supporting large-scale renewables. It backed 22 solar projects in the latest round – including some very large projects, like NextEra’s 90MW High River Energy Center.

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“There was a dramatic increase in the participation of solar developers, and also in the competitiveness of their bids,” Harris says of the first procurement round. “The winning bidders were largely determined based on price, so the fact that solar could compete with wind is quite newsworthy here in New York.”

In addition to its ambitions for onshore renewables, New York has a 2.4GW offshore wind target for 2030.

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