New York renewable energy bill gets push; Businesses, nonprofits could get credit for excess electricity
A move to provide users of renewable energy some utility-bill relief is undergoing a final push in Albany, with help from some Rochester-area business owners.
Bills in the state Assembly could allow businesses to save utility money. Even a Rochester-area school with its own wind turbine could save an extra $50,000 a year.
The bills would also help business investors in wind turbines and solar panels to pay off their investment sooner, advocates said. The advocates said they scored major progress on Wednesday when state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County – the Senate’s energy chairman – introduced a reform allowing greater use of incentives for customers using renewable-energy generators.
Two bills have been introduced in the Assembly that would, among other things, allow systems up to 2-megawatts to get credit for the excess power they put back onto the statewide power grid, said Carol Murphy, executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy of New York.
Maziarz’s bill would allow any customer to use up to a 2-megawatt generator and to take part in “net metering,” when excess power put onto the grid actually reverses a customer’s meter, driving down their bill.
Kevin Schulte, owner of Sustainable Energy Developments Inc. of Ontario, Wayne County, was in Albany pushing for the state legislation, which would also allow not-for-profit organizations and schools to get credit for their onsite generators, such as solar panels or wind turbines.
Because the sun or wind doesn’t always power the generators, the businesses generally prefer to be connected to an electricity supplier, though many others have excess power to add to the grid.
Advocates said New York’s current law also limits who can benefit, by excluding businesses and nonprofits and by not providing net metering.
Mark DeCracker of the independent Alternative Energy Task Force of Wayne County says the lower residential limits are not even adequate, and the state’s renewable goals won’t be met unless the Legislature changes the law.
“I think (net meter allowances) could go higher,” said DeCracker. “It’s like the old days we had a (computer) hard drive, we might have been happy with 20 megabytes. … You are not going to get progressive unless you change the laws.”
Current law vexes advocates of alternative energy because businesses are usually the ones who can afford a wind turbine or a solar panel, Schulte said.
And not just businesses. Schulte said the Sodus Central School District could save more than $50,000 a year if it builds one and receives the break.
The district is eyeing a 600-kilowatt wind turbine at a potential cost of $1.75 million.
The district would save $120,000 a year in energy costs with the wind turbine, but could save a total of $175,000 with a change in net-metering law.
“It gets them to a 10-year payback,” Schulte said.
12 June 2008
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