Solar Developers Smell Trouble on Long Island as Offshore Wind Arrives
Emma Foehringer Merchant
“Long Island really risks being left out of the state’s march toward clean energy,” said Shyam Mehta, executive director of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association.
Long Island was once the “backbone” of New York’s solar industry, according to Steven Engelmann, business development director at New York-based EnterSolar. The area now accounts for nearly a third of the state’s total installations to date. More recently, though, Engelmann says the region’s distributed solar market has fallen off “a cliff” due to constraints on the commercial solar market, which have only recently lifted. “Projects on Long Island are just not viable; they’re not bankable if we were to try to get any kind of financing,” said Engelmann.
“Solar is taking a back seat. That’s where our fight is,” said Scott Maskin, CEO and co-founder at Long Island-based Sunation Solar Systems. “It’s become increasingly obvious that our utility is sacrificing solar for wind initiatives.”
“It’s a substantial reduction in income for projects, and it’s so severe that we believe, in the current configuration as planned, the market will stall completely,” said David Schieren, CEO at local developer EmPower Solar. With the VDER rate, EmPower’s Schieren said projects will get a “haircut” from around 16 cents per kilowatt-hour under net metering to 10 cents (LIPA puts this figure closer to 13 cents), compared with a retail rate of about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. “That pushes the simple payback past any point that interests a serious investor,” said Schieren. “At this point, we consider it unworkable.”