Letter: Solar too costly for big investment

Gary Minnick, owner of Go Solar Incorporated in

Gary Minnick, owner of Go Solar Incorporated in Aquebogue, examines a solar panel. The state is seeking to restart the LIPA home solar energy rebates. (Oct. 25, 2010) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

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Regarding "New York still in the shade on solar" [Opinion, March 28], I believe that New York is on a path to solar. Our state is not in the shade, as we are smart enough to watch the folly of others from afar.

While sunlight is free, solar panels and installation are not. Massive, ill-conceived mandates to purchase solar energy are also not free. They cost customers and jobs.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has estimated that the cost of achieving a 5,000-megawatt goal -- advocated by writer Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters -- exceeds the benefits. In its high cost scenario, the state agency calculated the cost to ratepayers would be $15.2 billion.

New Yorkers should look to Germany, which once prided itself on being the photovoltaic world champion. Germany has cut its solar subsidies. The generous subsidies doubled projected solar installations, resulting in a $260 hike in the average consumer's annual power bill. The German experience is not unusual. France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are also reducing their subsidies to control unsustainable costs.

As a national leader in renewable energy, New York has already made a significant commitment, requiring that 30 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2015. New York meets its targets with a diverse portfolio of energy generation technologies, including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower.

The $2.9 billion portfolio could support large-scale solar generation, but to date it has not, because of the significant cost compared with other renewables. We also get more carbon reduction for less cost with other renewable sources at this time.

The Business Council supports Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's NY-Sun Initiative that will, by 2013, quadruple the state's photovoltaic capacity from its 2011 level. We recommend that those advocating for the adoption of a specific rigid statutory program join us, and instead accept the need for a policy response and investment strategy that is responsible, flexible and controls costs.

Heather Briccetti, Albany

Editor's note: The writer is the chief executive of the Business Council of New York State, an advocacy organization.

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