Long Island Solar Roadmap: Advancing Low-Impact Solar in Nassau & Suffolk Counties
Solar power offers Long Islanders a host of benefits — reductions in greenhouse gases and air pollution, healthier communities, affordable access to renewable energy, and good paying jobs. Solar can also play a significant role in helping address the climate crisis and meeting the goals of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). This nation-leading 2019 law requires 70% of the state’s electricity to be generated from renewable resources by 2030 and 100% of electricity to be generated from carbon-free sources by 2040. Many people are familiar with residential rooftop solar systems, which range in size from 3 to 10 kilowatts (kW). Larger commercial and utility-scale solar systems, which can generate hundreds to thousands of kilowatts each, offer the opportunity to realize the benefits of solar power more quickly and cost-effectively in the region. This report shows how solar power can be scaled up without impacting the natural areas that are critical for wildlife, water-quality protection, and quality of life on Long Island. Low-impact sites like rooftops, parking lots, and other land already impacted by development, such as capped landfills and remediated brownfields, are excellent locations for the development of commercial- and utility-scale arrays. Building solar on low-impact sites minimizes impacts to natural ecosystems and habitat, reduces the potential for land-use conflicts and community opposition, decreases project cost and permitting times, and avoids the harmful release of carbon pollution that results from the conversion of natural areas for development. The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife created the Long Island Solar Roadmap (the Roadmap) with the aim of advancing deployment of mid- to-large-scale solar power on Long Island in a way that minimizes environmental impacts, maximizes benefits to the region, and expands access to solar energy, including access to benefits by underserved communities. The Roadmap’s creation was supported by a diverse group of Long Island stakeholders. Individuals from state, local, and county government; the solar industry; the farm community; environmental and community organizations; the electric utility; businesses; and academic institutions provided input and guidance on design, research, and strategies. The Roadmap identifies low-impact sites for solar arrays on Long Island and shows their energy generation potential. Key findings also highlight Long Islanders’ opinions and preferences about solar development in their communities and provide information about the costs and benefits associated with bringing more solar online. It is our hope that the cohesive set of strategies and actions provided in this report will help lower barriers to low-impact solar development that meets the needs of all Long Island communities and benefits the whole region. Together, the key findings of the Roadmap point toward a promising future for Long Island as we transition to renewable energy. Taking full advantage of Long Island’s solar potential will require the commitment and collective action of a diverse group of stakeholders, including local and state government, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), PSEG Long Island, the solar industry, commercial and industrial property owners, farmers and farmland owners, nonprofits, and community organizations.