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Suffolk Closeup: The road to clean, sustainable energy

“Long Island Solar Roadmap” is the title of a just-released report on how solar power has “the potential to generate more electricity than Long Island uses each year.”

Shelter Island is also covered in the report.

The report was “spearheaded” by The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife and involved a “consortium” of “38 local stakeholders,” says a statement issued with the report. 

This included people from: the Sierra Club; Renewable Energy Long Island; Long Island Regional Planning Council; Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who represents Shelter Island; Peconic Land Trust; Clean Energy of New York; Sustainability Institute of Molloy College; Long Island and New York State power authorities; Suffolk Community College; Land Trust Alliance; and from individual Long Island towns.

The initiative was supported by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The report not only covers what can be done, but recommends strategies for “implementing” the roadmap. It’s available online. Its 127 pages are literally a roadmap to a sunny energy future for this area. The link is: //solarroadmap.org/

It describes specific solar power potentials in areas throughout Suffolk and Nassau, including a map on Page 117 of spots on Shelter Island.

The statement starts by noting “the solar carport at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge” and how it “twinkles in the sun. Since 2011, the solar canopies there, laid out in rows above the parking spaces, have generated shade in the hot summer months and carbon-free electricity all year round, along with a multitude of other benefits: improved air quality and improved public health jobs that pay above the national average; reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; and income for Suffolk County, which has leased the parking lot to the arrays developer.”

“The even better news about this solar project and ones like it — mid-to-large-scale arrays of at least 250 kilowatts,” it goes on, “is that they can play a pivotal role in meeting New York State’s nation-leading climate and clean energy goals.”

“In fact,” it says, “these arrays, also called commercial- and industrial-scale solar, have the potential to generate more electricity than Long island uses each year — enough to power 4.8 million homes.”

“And … they can do it without negatively impacting many of the places Long Islanders hold dear — the region’s farmlands and forests, its cultural heritage sites and open spaces.”

“The Long Island Solar Roadmap,” it states, “explores how to advance solar development on the country’s most populated island while safeguarding the landscapes people value most and expanding clean energy, especially for low-to-moderate income residents and people of color.”

The “Roadmap offers a first-of-its-kind online mapping tool that identifies areas for responsible solar development and lays out clear strategies for lowering barriers to the clean energy technology.”

The initiative “got its start with the awareness of a problem. In 2016, several proposed large solar projects on Long Island were very publicly shot down because they would have required clear-cutting forests,” it relates. It quotes Jessica Price, the New York renewable strategy leader for The Nature Conservancy saying “I was having lots of conversations with folks about where solar projects shouldn’t go. What I was really interested in talking about was where they should go.”

“To help figure that out,” the statement continues, “The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife brought together utilities, municipalities, solar developers, commercial property owners, farmers and community groups to talk about what they valued and how those values could be used to inform decisions about solar siting.” They found: “Even though we don’t have large swaths of undeveloped land on Long Island, we have plenty of parking lots, warehouse roofs, brownfields, capped landfills and other areas already impacted by development.”

Also, “public opinion research … found that 92% of Long Islanders surveyed endorse the use of mid-to-large-scale solar, and the technology is especially popular when sited on parking lots and rooftops and when projects are developed and installed by local companies.”

It quotes Ms. Price declaring: “Solar power offers incredible benefits. This report shows that in scaling up solar, we don’t have to choose between one ‘green’ good — clean energy — and another — undisturbed forests, open spaces, and farmland. Even on densely populated Long Island, with the right approach we have room for it all.”