New Solar Roadmap Shows How Long Island Can Produce More Electricity Than the Region Uses Each Year
Huge potential exists for developing clean energy in areas that have been built on before, such as commercial building rooftops and parking lots.
The Long Island Solar Roadmap (the Roadmap), a new report and interactive online map from The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife, demonstrates how Long Island could produce more solar electricity than the region uses all year by developing solar arrays on “low-impact” sites such as parking lots, capped landfills, and commercial building rooftops. Crucially, the Roadmap finds that these solar installations can be deployed without negatively affecting the region’s natural areas, forests, or prime farmlands. Public opinion research, conducted in 2019 for the report, found overwhelming support for solar energy, with 92% of surveyed Long Islanders in favor of solar development in their communities.
To address the effects of stronger storms, flooding, and extreme heat due to climate change, New York State has adopted bold legislation requiring 70% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. Due to its unique geographic position, Long Island enjoys the state’s highest solar resources. Developing even one-quarter of the island’s low-impact solar potential could help meet the state’s critical clean energy goals while delivering an estimated $10 billion in local economic benefits and an additional $5 billion in earnings for workers in the construction industry.
The Roadmap reflects the input of a diverse group representing state, local, and county government; the solar industry; farmers; environmental and community organizations; the electric utility; businesses; and academic institutions. These members have worked together since 2018 to design a Roadmap for accelerating smart siting of mid- to large-scale solar power on Long Island. While Long Island already boasts the highest concentration of small, residential solar rooftop installations in the state, the development of mid- to large-scale solar installations would enable more Long Islanders, like renters, to use clean energy in their homes and businesses. The Roadmap identifies existing barriers for low-impact solar development as well as the benefits of expanding solar in the region, detailing eight strategies to advance renewable energy development that maximize benefits to the region with minimal environmental impact.
The Roadmap’s methodology included three main research components—public opinion research, economic analysis on the costs and benefits of solar development, and geospatial analysis. Spatial data scientists from the Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation used advanced mapping techniques to identify low-impact sites for solar arrays in Nassau and Suffolk counties and show their energy generation potential. The data is now available as a public map and can be used by municipal officials, property owners, and solar developers to identify potential sites before solar development in each of Long Island’s 15 cities and towns with the least impact to the environment.
“The Long Island Solar Roadmap provides a path to responsibly add significant amounts of renewable solar energy while preserving our most important open spaces. The climate change we are experiencing now shows that we need to add more solar energy as quickly as possible. We cannot afford to wait for large-scale offshore wind projects whose construction may be caught in bureaucratic delays,” said Peter Gollon, Trustee, Long Island Power Authority. “On-island solar will complement that offshore wind when it is built, and in the meantime will provide thousands of good-paying local jobs, as well as low-cost renewable energy for families that cannot have their own rooftop solar."
“PSEG Long Island is pleased to have contributed to the development of the Long Island Solar Roadmap,” said Michael Voltz, Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables, PSEG Long Island. “Long Island has the largest deployment of residential rooftop solar in New York State. This project will help more customers realize the benefits of solar energy and put Long Island on the path to achieving New York’s goals of a safer, cleaner and greener environment.”
“The Roadmap unveils tremendous potential for solar power on Long Island and confirms that we can tackle climate change while protecting our natural world. We were pleased to partner with the Long Island Power Authority, PSEG Long Island, and other stakeholders to develop the Roadmap, and The Nature Conservancy looks forward to continuing to work with Long Island leaders to help seize this critical opportunity. Building solar energy on Long Island would create thousands of new jobs, reduce pollution, improve public health, and strengthen the region’s economy,” said Bill Ulfelder, New York Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy. “And critically, it helps us combat global warming and leave a safer world for our children and our grandchildren. No wonder low-impact solar is so popular with Long Islanders.”
"There is no doubt that we need to deploy more renewable energy around the country, including in densely populated areas like Long Island,” said Joy Page, Director of Renewable Energy and Wildlife, Defenders of Wildlife. “Developing solar energy in low-impact low-conflict areas with support of the local communities such as the ones identified by this project is a great way to advance renewable energy without adversely affecting wildlife and habitat."
“As a member of the Suffolk County Legislature, I am pleased to have been able, along with former Legislator Kate Browning, to have played a small role in moving this important initiative forward, along with the GIS departments of the Towns of Southampton and Huntington. Having observed the challenges that can arise when communities are called on to ‘trade green for green,’ we recognize that the formidable talent and commitment brought to bear in this important undertaking will serve the community well. Armed with the data contained in the comprehensive map and report, we can more ably address the thorny challenge of expanding solar energy resources without adversely impacting wildlife habitat and critical open space,” stated Legislator Bridget Fleming, Chair of the Suffolk County Legislature Renewable Energy Task Force.
“The Long Island Solar Roadmap charts an important path forward in our region’s ability to meet much needed renewable energy goals and demonstrate the region’s commitment to fighting global climate change. We believe the recommendations included represent a careful but achievable path to accomplish these goals while expanding economic opportunities for local businesses, including local agriculture, and reducing long-term energy costs for private citizens,” said August Ruckdeschel, Farmland and Open Space Coordinator, Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning
“I am very grateful for the work that went into this Roadmap. The Nature Conservancy did an excellent job of convening stakeholders, collecting data, and facilitating thought leadership to the end of producing an impressive and practical set of ideas and resources to move solar projects forward on Long Island. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of this endeavor,” said Sammy Chu, CEO for Edgewise Energy & Chairman of U.S. Green Building Council Long Island Chapter.
“The Long Island Solar Roadmap demonstrates that solar energy can power Long Island and charge our electric vehicles. We are now challenged to be innovative and strategic by modernizing the electric grid and utility business models in ways that will accelerate deployment and deliver benefits to all stakeholders. EmPower Solar is thrilled to be working with The Nature Conservancy, our utilities, elected leaders and many stakeholders to forge a path forward and meet out clean energy goals for the region," said David G. Schieren, CEO, EmPower Solar.
“This was one of the best inclusive efforts for all stakeholder groups I have ever been involved in. The team has developed a valuable tool that will speed our transition to renewables that is so critical to mitigate the high cost of climate change,” said William Feldmann, CEO of Empire Clean Energy Supply.
“This first-of-its-kind report gives us a timely tool to tap into the large and mostly untapped potential of low-impact solar sites on Long Island. Much work remains to remove barriers to solar development but the report’s comprehensive strategies to overcome these challenges offer an excellent roadmap as Long Island and the state begin to build back better and greener,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island.
“Our primary goal in the renewable energy transition is to support communities and workers most impacted by climate change. Through the Long Island Solar Roadmap consortium, our priorities to center equity, promote cooperative ownership of community solar, and advance participatory planning in renewable energy development were heard, valued, and incorporated. This Roadmap process has been an impressive and thorough one, and we are grateful to have played a role in shaping it,” said Ryan Madden, Sustainability Organizer, Long Island Progressive Coalition.
“We know that the development of clean, renewable energy will help provide Long Islanders with good, family-supporting jobs, new revenue for local governments, and help address our climate crisis. The Roadmap is a critical tool in providing a path to get there while ensuring a clean and healthy environment,” said Jessica Enzmann, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.