Solar power expanding in New York State

Who said New York State can’t be powered by renewable energy?

At a time when the state is exploring everything from new natural gas pipelines to building a liquified natural gas port, Owens Corning Corp. flipped the switch October 15 on the largest solar power project yet supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative.

The solar array consists of 9,000 photovoltaic panels, located on more than nine acres on a former cornfield near the company’s manufacturing plant in Bethlehem, New York, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Switchboard Blog. Owens Corning is a Fortune 500 building materials company and the world’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass.

Gov. Cuomo launched the NY-Sun Initiative in 2012, in order to pump $800 million in funding into the state’s solar power industry through 2015. Owens Corning received funding through a competitive bidding process administered by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority. Along with administering new projects, the Initiative also aims to develop solar power training materials for municipalities, streamline permitting procedures and take other steps to improve the state’s economic climate for solar power development.

The project is a promising step for the future of New York State’s solar energy industry, which has lagged behind other states.

In California alone, by far the nation’s largest solar power market, the industry employs more than 40,000 people, according to Greentech Media.

In 2012, the industry employed more than 119,00 people nationwide, representing a 13.2 percent year-on-year increase, according to the Solar Foundation. In the second quarter of 2013, the industry grew by 13.2 percent and the average price for solar panels has dropped by 60 percent since 2011.

Gov. Cuomo has already proposed extending the NY-Sun Initiative 2013. The State Senate passed legislation to do exactly this in May.

It is now up to the State Assembly to decide whether New York State will continue to embrace the growing green economy.