Cuomo lays out massive green energy plan in State of State

Governor's OfficeGov. Andrew Cuomo wears a Bills mask for Tuesday's installment of his State of the State Address.
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Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wears a Bills mask for Tuesday's installment of his State of the State Address.

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo was still going strong Wednesday with his State of the State Address(es), and also going green.

He gave broad-stroke details of a massive plan to make New York state a leader in generation and use of green energy as well as development and manufacture of the technology to produce it.

The traditional one-day State of the State is being split into chapters this year; Cuomo delivered the third on Wednesday.

“Let us discuss today a major targeted opportunity,” he said. “A new economic engine that is future-oriented, that is essential to our survival, and that has potential to benefit generations to come. That is the energy transformation to renewables — a new green energy economy.”

The vision boils down to training New Yorkers to build and install solar and wind power generation equipment, then using the equipment to replace carbon-based electrical generation.

Capital Region components of the plan include a factory at the Port of Albany to construct towers for offshore wind turbines. The 450-foot-long finished products will be shipped down the Hudson by barge to staging areas for massive wind farms Cuomo envisions off the Long Island coast that would have a combined 2,500-megawatt capacity.

The governor also mentioned a 20-megawatt solar farm in Saratoga County and a huge 250-megawatt solar farm in Montgomery County.

One megawatt of electricity can power about 600 homes, or more, or fewer, depending on who is doing the estimate and what part of the country the house is located. The GlobalFoundries plant in Malta, by comparison, uses 120 megawatts.

Peak use on the hottest summer day is about 32,000 megawatts across all of New York state.

THE PLAN

Cuomo laid out the components of his plan:

  • Build enough green power-generating equipment to supply New York’s needs.
  • Develop the technology to do this and manufacture the equipment in New York.
  • Start with a $26 billion public-private partnership to build nearly 100 projects (work has already begun on 68 of them).
  • Expedite the projects with a new siting process.
  • Build the transmission capacity to move all that electricity around.
  • Create battery storage facilities to hold onto the green energy for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, using technology being developed in upstate New York.
  • Replace heating and cooling systems in 130,000 buildings with heat pumps and geothermal heating.
  • Train and educate a diverse workforce to do all this, starting by investing $20 million in a new Offshore Wind Training Institute at SUNY Stony Brook and Farmingdale State College that will train 2,500 workers starting this summer.

Cuomo estimated the initiative would create nearly 11,000 jobs in upstate New York alone, including 500 construction jobs and 300 manufacturing jobs in the Port of Albany. The plan also calls for increasing manufacture of turbine foundations at the nearby Port of Coeymans.

Statewide, the governor said, all of these renewable projects will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 16 million metric tons a year, attract $26 billion in investment and create over 17,000 well-paying jobs.

The entire green-energy initiative would produce 12,400 megawatts of electricity.

THAT OTHER GREEN

As another famous New Yorker once said, “It’s not easy being green.”

Cuomo acknowledged that Wednesday: “Collective change, social change, is incredibly difficult. Massive change is near impossible. But once in a lifetime, the stars line up, the forces align and there is a chance for change — change that is meaningful, and radical, and positive. Today I believe the stars are in line for real progress if we connect the dots.”

But Cuomo didn’t get into specifics of how hard it would be.

Nor did he indicate where the massive infusion of funding needed to go green would come from — the state and nation already have huge deficits without counting the massive, still-growing costs of the COVID-19 crisis.

Some of the challenges:

  • Transmission lines can take forever to build. (The Champlain-Hudson Express through the Capital Region, for example, was proposed in March 2010, approved in 2013, and may start construction in 2021; in 11 years, 78 parties have been involved in the state regulatory process and 3,654 documents have been entered into the record.) Cuomo acknowledged the historically slow pace of power line construction but said that challenge can be overcome.
  • Cuomo seeks highest-in-the-nation involvement by minority- and women-owned busineses in the process, which may limit the number of potential bidders.
  • Cuomo also wants to require prevailing-wage agreements and project labor agreements, which lock in trade unions and can be more expensive than open bidding.
  • New York already has some of the most expensive electricity in the state; Cuomo made no mention of the green project reducing costs for consumers, nor did he say costs wouldn’t rise as a result.
  • The fundamental imperative that Cuomo led off with Wednesday — halting global climate change — would rely on much of the rest of the nation and world following New York’s lead.
  • New York is already the second-most energy-efficient state in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the satisfaction of knowing this has not stopped New Yorkers from moving out of state at a rapid clip, giving New York the nation’s greatest population loss three years in a row. A reason frequently offered is the high cost of living and doing business here, and the limitations that creates.

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